In a letter addressed to everyone, Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England has vented his disappointment in the Government’s decision last week to take no immediate action on tobacco and alcohol death prevention. The opening extract of his letter reads;
We share and understand the disappointment across the public health family that neither standardised packaging nor minimum unit pricing are to be taken forward for the moment by Government. With tobacco and alcohol being among the nation’s top killers this is, however, hopefully a case of not now, rather than never. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have made clear that they are open to further evidence emerging. Lest we forget, nine out of ten smokers begin as children and helping them make better choices is a child protection concern. Likewise, the evidence tells us that doing all we can to reduce the ready availability of cheap, higher strength alcohol helps the youngest and the heaviest drinkers most.
There comes a cros by which you wonder why the Government felt the need to totally flip their position on these issues and create disappointment to their own professional most senior Public Health Chief Executive.
In February last year, I wrote a blog piece on this website praising the prime Minister for raising the issue of binge drinking and at the time, it was looking like David Cameron would take some strong action on the issue – LINK.
The problems with street drinking, and especially in this current amazing weather, are persisting in Neasden. I feel a minimum pricing policy would deter people from drinking so much. We have a dispersal zone in place which should be helping tackle the impact of street drinking and it is illegal anyway. However, there is a lack of police presence and patrolling in the area because of successive years of police cuts – LINK.
In addition to the failure to introduce plain package cigarettes, it looks like the Tory Liberals will also not be introducing minimum pricing for alcohol. In addition, research published in the British Medical Journey yesterday showed that the number of deaths among women born in the 1970s has “disproportionately increased” since the mid-2000s – LINK.
The Government needs to act on the alcohol health warnings that are screaming out at everyone.
Despite the rank hypocrisy highlighted by the Political Scrapbook here (LINK), which describes how David Cameron profited £84,000 from a “binge drinking” bar chain, The Prime Minister is right to raise the issue of binge drinking.
Although the issue in Dudden Hill ward is in a slightly different context compared to what David Cameron is talking about, some of the issues are experienced in my ward, particularly in the Neasden area.
The Government talk of the soaring costs to the NHS because of excessive drinking. In Neasden, street drinking has an impact on the Council’s resources as people are drinking and throwing cans away on the streets rather than recycling.
In addition, individuals off their heads on alcohol are taking part in anti-social behaviour in surrounding streets and can appear intimidating hanging around in groups in front of people’s houses.
The additional time that the Police have to spend in these hotspot drinking areas is also having a drain on Police resources. In Neasden, I am working with Sergeant Matthew Howard and the Safer Neighbourhood Team along with the Neasden Action Group. Last week I also took the opportunity to raise it with Brent Borough Commander Matthew Gardner.
The Council also has a role to play through licensing. Alcohol is too readily available. It does not help that one in four premises in the Neasden shopping centre sells alcohol; and in some cases, as cheap as £1 a 500ml can of beer.
At the same time, there are underlying issues of jobs and unemployment that have to be addressed on a national scale.