£21 billion drink: Swanswell turns to party conferences to help reduce alcohol harm

17 September 2013

Swanswell is calling for better education and clearer information around alcohol use, as it urges politicians to lead the way in tackling a £21 billion drink problem.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is holding fringe events at two of the party conferences this month to raise awareness of the issues people are facing, and to highlight the need for change.

Problem alcohol use costs the economy around £21 billion a year to deal with including up to £3.5 billion in NHS costs and billions more dealing with related crime, lost working hours and other associated problems.

In 2011/12, there were just over 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions – more than twice as many as in 2002/03.

During the fringe events on 22 September (Labour, Brighton) and 30 September (Conservatives, Manchester), Swanswell will discuss how alcohol use has become a big part of our society and show real life stories of how problems can quickly spiral out of control.

The charity will also look at the influences that affect how and when people start drinking, and the effect early exposure to alcohol can have on drinking habits later in life.

Swanswell will encourage decision-makers to take another look at alcohol messaging and will build a case for better education in schools, compulsory questions in the driving theory test and clear information at the point of sale.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Problem alcohol use costs thousands of lives every year and billions of pounds to deal with, yet it’s something that is entirely preventable in the first place.

It’s clear that public health messages just aren’t getting through – the alcohol industry spends around £800 million a year promoting products, compared to around £18 million spent by government on alcohol awareness messaging.

Experience tells us that more investment in alcohol education and clearer information will go a long way to helping people make informed decisions about their relationship with alcohol, so we’ll make our case at the party conferences.’

Seema Malhotra, MP for Feltham and Heston, and a Swanswell trustee, added: ‘Britain has a £21 billion drink problem which can no longer be ignored. Politicians from all parties must come together to tackle the crisis, which is not only squeezing the NHS budget, but results in the early deaths of loved family members.

Through early education and engagement we can change this, saving public money and most importantly, saving lives.’

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