The relationship between alcohol availability and harm - what the evidence says
The relationship between the physical availability of alcohol in society, the ease and convenience with which it can be obtained, and levels of alcohol consumption and harm has been explored in a large number of research studies from different countries. Strong evidence shows that increasing access to alcohol through more outlets and longer trading hours affects a range of alcohol-related harms. Overall, the evidence suggests that restricting the availability of alcohol can contribute to a reduction in alcohol-related problems.
Licensing and alcohol availability in Scotland
In Scotland, liberalisation of licensing controls since the 1960s has led to an expansion and diversification in the retail supply of alcohol. More licences have been issued to a wider range of outlets and for longer trading hours. Alcohol is now an easily accessible, highly visible and heavily marketed commodity. As the availability and affordability of alcohol has increased so has levels of alcohol consumption and problems related to alcohol.
The licensing workshop and report
In June 2011, SHAAP and Alcohol Focus Scotland convened an expert workshop to consider the operation of Scotland’s licensing system and how it could more effectively regulate the availability of alcohol to reduce high levels of harm. New Scottish licensing legislation came into force in 2009. The new legislation introduces licensing objectives, including an objective to protect and improve public health. A key question for the workshop was how this public health objective could be meaningfully interpreted in licensing practice.
The findings and conclusions of the workshop were published in the report, Re-thinking alcohol licensing.
The report makes a series of recommendations for licensing boards, local authorities and the Scottish Government.