Calls to ban super strong alcohol in Plymouth
ALCOHOL experts have called on Plymouth to ban shops from selling super-strength alcohol.
John Hamblin, chief executive of city homelessness charity Shekinah Mission, said: “It’s immoral that you can buy litres of super-strength lager for a price similar to bottled water.”
He told a council panel set up to design a city-wide alcohol strategy that Plymouth has more licensed premises than Liverpool.
He said Ipswich and some London boroughs had unilaterally banned the sale of super-strength alcohol to tackle the problem. “If they can do it, why can’t we?” asked Mr Hamblin.
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He said Shekinah had successfully lobbied nationally to have White Lightning cider – nick-named ‘Tramp Juice’ – withdrawn by its manufacturer.
“II see people stumbling down Union Street to the off-licence and then stumbling back with a can of super-strength alcohol.”
As The Herald reported last year, alcohol misuse in Plymouth is estimated to cost £80million a year – or £320 for every resident.
Mark Bignell, of drug and alcohol rehab centre Hamoaze House, told the panel: “There are lots of areas of poverty where shop shelves are stacked with super-strength cider and lager.Not selling super-strength alcohol would make a big difference.”
Amanda Clements, hepatology nurse consultant for Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We need to protect our young people.
“I say to patients, ‘Where do you get your alcohol from when you can’t even walk to the toilet?’ And they tell me the shops deliver to the door.” Some people will continue drinking until they are dead.”
The panel heard that a bargain alcohol shop had opened next door to the Harbour Centre, another city rehab unit.
And Mr Hamblin said the council’s licensing committee had given permission to an off-licence to open next door to Devonport House, the Salvation Army hostel.
The experts from a range of city agencies and organisations called for an in-depth consultation to find out how to stop alcohol abuse and for someone to be appointed to make it work.
Mr Hamblin said: “We have seen too many people dying.”
Andy Netherton, the council’s licensing manager, said there was nothing to prevent Plymouth banning super-strength alcohol.
If there was evidence of problems the council could impose conditions on licensed premises, or persuade the off-licences to act voluntarily.
But he said the licensing department’s goals, as defined by the Government, did not include improving people’s health.
Although it is an offence to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk, Mr Netherton said there were only about half a dozen prosecutions a year throughout the country.
Prof Rod Sheaff, professor of health services research at Plymouth University, said it was no good having adults going in waving the information at young people. The best way to educate young people was through peer pressure, using organisations like the students’ union.
Cllr John Tuffin (Lab, St Peter & the Waterfront) said that the strongest message was that you had to intervene at the supply point.
RETAILERS in Ipswich in Suffolk have signed up to a Reducing the Strength campaign, backed by Suffolk police, NHS Suffolk, Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council.
The campaign is aimed at beers and ciders with an alcohol volume of 6.5 per cent and over. Products such as White Ace and White Star ciders, which have a 7.5 per cent alcohol content and are often sold cheaply.
LIVER DISEASE KILLING YOUNG PEOPLE
LIVER disease is killing more and more young people as drinking patterns change, say city experts.
"People love alcohol – they love to celebrate," Mark Bignell of Hamoaze House, the drug and alcohol rehab centre in Mount Wise told the panel.
But he said that problem drinkers would go to any lengths to get alcohol. He had been speaking to a man whose wife had thrown him out of the house at Christmas. The man had gone to the garden shed and tried to mix pineapple juice and turpentine.
Amanda Clements, Derriford hepatology nurse consultant, said: "Everyone drinks at home, but the pattern of drinking has changed. The amount people will put in their wine glass has changed." She said the average age of people with liver failure was falling and more women were falling victim to alcohol-related liver disease.
"I can't tell you how distressing it is to lay out a 40-year-old woman who has children at home who will never see her again."
"I have sat with a 21-year-old dying of liver disease. It is very shocking – and it is getting younger and younger."
Cllr Mary Aspinall, the panel chair, said alcohol was the country's fifth biggest killer.
Christine Little, head of operations at Harbour Drug and Alcohol Services, said alcohol was the drug of choice for women, but not men. She said last year a woman she had dealt with died – the woman had been drinking alcohol hand gel on the hospital ward.
"People might be put off drinking if they could visit Derriford and see the reality of end-stage liver disease," she said.
"The problem is there are so many people who drink and don't get in this state and can't identify with people who aren't like themselves. Showing someone exploding because they are bleeding to death – it does hit home if it's their mum."
A truly addicted person will find a way of getting alcohol no matter what is done, the panel heard, so the alcohol strategy needs to target young people before the addiction develops.
Last year Harbour saw three 18-year-olds; 18 aged 19-24; 159 aged 25-34; 222 aged 35-44; 238 aged 45-54; 85 aged 55-64; 22 aged 65-74 and one 75 or over.
Dr Hugh Campbell, a Lipson GP who deals with alcohol problems, said the over-70s were neglected. And he said that many with alcohol problems had underlying mental health issues, but the mental health agencies were sometimes reluctant to treat them until the alcohol was dealt with.
Mr Hamblin said research had shown that retired people were a big risk group, showing a massive rise in consumption.
PANEL SHOCKED BY A NIGHT IN PLYMOUTH
MEMBERS of the council’s alcohol strategy panel were shocked at what they saw when they joined police on night-time patrols.
In one incident police, ambulance, Derriford hospital, friends and family took two hours to deal with a young woman who was almost comatose, said Cllr Lynda Bowyer (Con, Eggbuckland) said.
Cllr Lorraine Parker (Lab, Southway) said she witnessed a woman who was so drunk outside Oceana on the Barbican leisure park that it took four police to control her.
“It’s young women who are making themselves vulnerable through drinking too much,” she said.
She saw another young woman beating up her boyfriend, and witnessed police using pepper spray on drunks on the Barbican at 7.30 in the evening.