Irish Medical Times – Alcohol deaths ‘easily’ preventable

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Alcohol is responsible for around 80 per cent of deaths from liver disease, but many of these deaths are easily preventable, according to a comment in The Lancet that takes the history of alcohol policy as its evidence base.

As part of the article, the British hepatologists projected the rates of death due to liver disease in Britain based on four different policies. If the UK situation continued as it has done for the past 10 years, some 8,900 additional people would die by 2019 due to liver disease, they said.
“The evidence base for alcohol policy is extremely strong. Many expert bodies, including the World Health Organization, have confirmed that effective alcohol policies have three components: price, availability and promotions,” they wrote. This is the opposite of what drink industries claim, supporting deregulation along with education and information campaigns.
The authors discussed major changes in alcohol consumption in the UK and in France, finding the turning point of each peak was regulation affecting price, place and promotion.

The UK ‘gin epidemic’ of 1730-50, they said, was caused by widespread availability of cheap alcohol and deregulation. It was finally curtailed by regulation – the Gin Act of 1751. The next peak of alcohol consumption in the UK was ended by World War I.

The reduction of liver mortality in France was similarly achieved through changes in price, but was brought about without price regulation. Strict regulation of alcohol marketing and a move by the industry towards high-quality, expensive wines caused alcohol consumption and liver disease rates to fall.

Prof Jon Rhoese, President of the British Society for Gastroenterology, commented: “This paper highlights the stark future we face if the government continues to pander to the agendas of the drinks industry. The government needs to act quickly to take some serious steps to tackle this growing problem.”
Source: Irish Medical Times – 02.02.11