Doctors Want Action Over Alcohol

A range of proposals to tackle Wales’ “growing drink problem” have been put forward by doctors’ leaders. The British Medical Association (BMA) in Wales wants an increase in taxation on alcoholic drinks, proportionate to the strength of the product.

It also wants to see local schemes rolled out nationwide to outlaw the drinking of alcohol on the streets.

The BMA said politicians in Westminster and Cardiff Bay needed to co-operate on a new set of policies.

Dr Richard Lewis, secretary of BMA Wales said: “After smoking, alcohol is the next big public health issue.

“The government needs to get to grips with the problem.”

Dr Lewis said the BMA wanted to offer “practical solutions to Wales’ growing drink problem”.

He said it wanted an increase in funding of services designed to treat alcoholism and related illnesses.

Doctors themselves needed to take a lead by helping to change both attitudes and behaviour with regards to alcohol, said Dr Lewis.

The proposals build on the publication of BMA Wales’ four point plan to tackle alcohol-related issues, which was unveiled in June.

The scheme called for an end to discounting of alcohol by off licences and supermarkets, laws on alcohol labelling and reducing the drink-drive limit.

According to BMA Wales, the number of people admitted to hospital for alcohol-related conditions increased from 252 per 100,000 in 1999 to 309 per 100,000 in 2005.

It said admission rates were significantly higher than the overall Welsh average in Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Gwynedd, Newport, Wrexham, Swansea, Ynys Môn, Denbighshire, Conwy and Blaenau Gwent.

A number of cities and towns across Wales have already set up alcohol bans on their streets, including Aberystwyth, Rhyl, Cwmbran and Swansea. Caerphilly Council was one of the first authorities to prohibit drinking in specified public places.

It has also introduced a number of measures to curb underage drinking.

The BMA also referred to a survey by the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children which showed Wales had the highest proportion of 15-year-olds that reported drinking on a weekly basis.

Dr Lewis said the “comprehensive set of measures” was designed to cover a variety problem areas.

“It’s now up to the assembly government in partnership with the UK government to ensure that these policies are taken forward,” he added.