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Council seeks supermarket alcohol ban

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 09, 2013

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CORNWALL councillors are to ask the Prime Minister to stop supermarkets selling alcohol after hearing tens of thousands of hospital admissions in the county are due to alcohol abuse.

The council's health and adults overview and scrutiny committee backed the recommendation after listening to a new report from health bosses.

According to the study by the NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, between 2009 and 2012 more than 38,800 cases of injury or illness caused by alcohol were admitted to hospital.

Meeting on Tuesday at County Hall in Truro the committee discussed alcohol being sold cheaply in supermarkets and the possible introduction of a national minimum price.

Chairman Sue Nicholas said she had little faith that minimum pricing would deter people from buying and abusing alcohol.

"There was a time not that long ago when supermarkets didn't sell alcohol," she said. "I think they [the Government] should control sales of alcohol.

"I think minimum pricing is quite weak. People should not be able to buy alcohol in supermarkets."

The letter to David Cameron will also be sent to members of his Cabinet and Cornish MPs.

The report was presented by Sara Roberts, associate director of public health at Cornwall and Isles of Scilly NHS, and Jez Bayes, of the Cornwall Drug and Alcohol Team.

It revealed that just under a quarter (102,000) of the adult population of Cornwall regularly drank above the Government's recommended safe level, and a further 66,500 were classed as binge-drinkers. While the number of drink-related hospital admissions among under-18s had fallen, the overall figure for all age groups had increased during the period, it said.

Ms Roberts said more needed to be done to combat the problem.

"Alcohol is causing a considerable burden to the health service, with large numbers of people admitted to hospital with alcohol-related conditions," she said.

"In more deprived areas people are more likely to die from alcohol-related conditions than in affluent areas."

Mr Bayes said alcohol abuse was a national and historical problem.

"If you go back to the Battle of Hastings there were problems with alcohol in King Harold's army, so it's not a recent problem," he said.

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  • My2Penneth  |  January 10 2013, 11:44AM

    Asking central Government to ban supermarket alcohol sales is a bit like asking the Pope to denounce the existence of a higher being. It's just a waste of time and resources that could be put to better use at defining an effective message. But there again, we do live in a 'blame culture' don't we - so lets blame everyone else, because it prevents us from actually solving the problem (if there is indeed a problem of the magnitude being reported) Whilst I understand that the nations relationship with alcohol isn't necessarily a healthy one prohibition isn't a solution. It doesn't work with drug culture as where ever there is a demand there will be an all too willing supplier. Who will pick up the slack? Do we want to see an increase in shops like 'Bargain Booze" on the high street? Quite simply the message isn't getting through, and if it is people don't care. I think that the health promotion services need to review their communication strategy so that they have a clear message and meaningful, effective engagement. Examine why people drink? It's to escape largely, possibly to reduce boredom, to remove inhibitions and because, being honest, it makes you feel good. Why don't I as a human being take heroin? From speaking to former users it's a very pleasant experience all told. A bit like injecting warm caramel into yourself and transporting yourself to a place where everything is wonderful. What's not to like about that as a concept, I love caramel, and a wonderful place - hell sign me up... No, I don't take that path because I have been educated (as the majority of the population have) to know that the survival rate of taking that path is pretty low and it will ultimately lead to destruction. For that reason I have given it a very wide berth all my life. Please don't say "Heroin isn't readily available" because that just shows the level of naivety out there. In the early days of substance abuse dealers will readily deliver it to your front door - and it's accessible in every town in the land (probably world!) People need to have a sense of self worth in order to make positive life decisions, the current administration seems hell bent on removing support mechanisms for vulnerable people with the 'You're either a striver or a skiver" attitude. Human beings cannot be polarized like that. Every generation needs it's 'state of the nation' whipping boy, in the 60's it was marijuana and acid, the 70's was heroin and cocaine, 80's and 90's it was ecstasy. Now it's legal highs and booze (it's often booze historically dating back centuries). Don't ask me for a solution, I don't have one. If I did we wouldn't have this discussion, apart possibly from ring fenced increases in alcohol taxation to raise money for the reported spiralling health costs, proper education and health promotion.

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  • mygodlesslife  |  January 09 2013, 10:25PM

    @NonEmmit I used to live in Sweden, and the cost and accessibility to alcohol is loosening each year. When I moved there in 2001, 'hembränt' was quite common, but come my departure 7.5 years later it was almost impossible to get hold of. I have no idea what would happen if the Swedish Government were to impose the old stricter regime - times have changed quite dramatically there with regard to alcohol - but I suspect most Swedes (at least those with reasonable access to them) would take the tax-free superferries to Finland to stock up to their hearts content. This is what happened when there was a hike in cigarette prices (the Government back-tracked when they found cigarette sales had dipped 25% and the reported number of smokers had actually risen for the first time in a generation). As for this country? I think it poor reporting not to provide a link to the report being discussed (Perhaps here: https://http://tinyurl.com/bxejbfd). How many people that have caused the most burden on the NHS emergency services have identified that it is, in fact, supermarkets where they bought their alcohol? Not that I am in favour of banning pubs serving alcohol, of course, but surely the report quoted (if I have found the right source) does not suggest where the alcohol is bought or consumed. Here is the full quote (for Penzance - Newquay, Bodmin and Camborne & Redruth are also highlighted in a much the same vein): "Penzance has particularly high numbers of people in treatment for alcohol as primary substance (relative to the population); alcohol-specific hospital admissions are above average, as are the indicators linking alcohol to crime / offending, both place based (relating to alcohol-related violence in Penzance town centre) and people based (offenders of all ages resident in the area for whom alcohol has been identified as a risk factor in their offending)." It is short-sighted in the extreme to draw baseless correlations without evidence, and this sort of knee-jerk reaction has a history of being catastrophically wrong in the past. I am, of course, open to being corrected if anyone has any evidence that supermarket alcohol sales have a direct causative effect on hospital admissions. If none is found, those that support it are duty-bound to accept that their opinion is without any merit, beyond their own self-satisfaction and unevidenced bubble of wilful ignorance.

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  • josdave  |  January 09 2013, 7:05PM

    Nothing to do with the council but it was a great mistake allowing the supermarkets to sell booze below cost price, which they do all too often, to get the punters through the doors. This together with the stupid 24 hour drinking times is the prime cause of the escalating booze fuelled violence in our towns and cities.

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  • kimmyp  |  January 09 2013, 3:06PM

    Same old, same old, punish the majority because the minority behave badly. How about people take responsibility for their own actions. Instead of issueing piddly fines they should make people pay the full cost of any services they use if they get themselves steaming drunk and if they can't pay lock them up. If they can afford to get steaming drunk they can afford the bill that goes with it and if they are on benefits they should have them stopped and if they loose everything, tough, the money they are given is not for that purpose. On christmas eve we watched a man so drunk he fell twice in the road and then fell backwards and was out cold. My husband and son went to pick him up and it appeared that he was sleeping rough. We all felt very sad but the fact was that this man made a choice, he was offered a room, a bed and food at a nearby hostel but he chose to get drunk instead.

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  • willythefish  |  January 09 2013, 2:05PM

    I fail to see why supermarket regulation is any business of Cornwall Council. I would prefer them to fix the potholes in the roads, empty the bins etc. Why do we pay for a "health and adults overview and scrutiny committee". As an adult in a free country I don't need to be 'overviewed' or 'scrutinised' by a bunch of prattling windbags who have just voted themselves a pay increase and an increase in the poll tax on some of the poorest households in Cornwall to pay for it. There's an election coming soon - an opportunity to boot the lot of them out and start again.

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  • NonEmmit  |  January 09 2013, 1:47PM

    I get pretty fed up with politicians and such trying to tell me what to do and don't do. This is not a new problem, they were complaining about drink abuse during Elizabeth 1 time also the gin abuse during the reign of George 111. Even the Romans thought it uncouth to drink wine unwatered. If the so called do gooding authorities price alcohol out of the reach of most people, and you end up with the situation as in Scandinavia where people distil illegal booze, with all the health problems that incurs!

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  • shagrats  |  January 09 2013, 10:52AM

    I think they should outsource "Binge Drinking" to BT. They will make such a better job of it than the council ever could.

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  • shagrats  |  January 09 2013, 10:51AM

    I think they should outsource "binge drinking" to BT, they can make such a better job of it than the council ever could.

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  • MattyVernon  |  January 09 2013, 10:31AM

    Instead of punishing everyone for the crimes of a few, how about anyone causing harm to themselves or others as a result of alcohol footing the bill.

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  • JJLee  |  January 09 2013, 9:51AM

    I think Sara Roberts should butt out of what people opt to do and stop trying to fool us that this about care, this is more to do with the reductions in NHS services as for this trendy buzz word binge drinkers which a few years ago they claimed was teenage problem then a granny issue, then over 40s, too much already. The council should stick to collecting rubbish rather than talking it.

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