Friday, 6 November 2009

Latest Labour assault on science: Gov't sacks drugs advisor

Unbelievable, really. The Home Secretary Alan Johnson has sacked a scientific advisor on drugs for observing that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis, and that horse-riding is more dangerous than taking ecstasy.

Is it any wonder we have such a problem with alcohol use when the Government is refusing, yet again, to take seriously the advice of scientists?

Nationally, alcohol is a disaster for the health of both people and wider communities.

Recent reports say alcohol will directly claim more than 90,000 lives over the next decade. The figures don't include drink-related accidents or deaths from illnesses which have been exacerbated by alcohol consumption.

Here in Brighton and Hove things are even worse than average: five children a week are admitted to casualty as a direct result of alcohol abuse.

Earlier this year I joined forces with Sussex Police to take part in a Government consultation on the rules governing alcohol sales.

We argued for a ban on supermarkets selling cheap alcohol at below costs price (a recent study showed that cheap strong alcohol was being sold for as little as 17p a unit) - and a prohibition of drink promotions that saw prices fall the more you drank.

But of course the Government ignored us entirely.

Last year, I persuaded Brighton and Hove Council to investigate the extent of alcohol-related harm to children and young people in the city, and why it seemed to be worse in Moulsecoomb, Whitehawk and Kemptown than central Brighton or Hove.

A scrutiny panel was established, and we heard from doctors, teachers, parents, landlords and off-licencees - and, of course, children themselves.

We made a number of recommendations - particularly that schools should provide more information for parents about the extent of teengae drinking, that substance misuse efforts should concentrate on alcohol use rather than cannabis (a casualty doctor from the Royal Sussex told us he'd never heard of a cannabis-related hospital admission), that the council should fund more services for young people, and that the city centre's 'Cumulative Impact Area' - in which the presumption is against saying yes to any new off-licenses or pubs - should be extended to cover Hanover, Elm Grove and Preston Park.

Our full report is available here.

I hope the local Tories have a slightly more evidence-based approach locally, and stop banging on about the bogeyman of cannabis, and we might just be able to buck the national trend and try and reduce some of the ill-effects alcohol is having on kids here in Brighton.

1 comment:

  1. "I hope the local Tories have a slightly more evidence-based approach"
    When pigs fly.