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JACKIE BALLARD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ALCOHOL CONCERN

In the UK one person an hour dies from conditions caused by alcohol and there are 1.2 million alcohol related hospital admissions a year. Alcohol misuse has a huge impact on local communities ranging from health to crime and disorder, affecting older people as well as young people, impacting families and social services, as well as the high street environment.

Clearly, tackling a problem of this scale will take more than words or token gestures.

Most people know that drinking too much can cause liver disease. But how many know that alcohol is linked to over 60 medical conditions? We need to increase education and understanding of what alcohol can do to our health and what it contains. Many people are unaware of the amount of sugar and the calories in their favourite tipple. For example, there are 130 calories in a standard glass of wine, and a massive 250 calories in a large can of lager.

Health warnings on labels are just one of the calls to parliament to help tackle the £21 billion bill alcohol misuse costs the UK. We need commitment from political parties on the tightening of alcohol advertising regulations, an increase in funding for treatment and access to help for hazardous and dependent drinkers, as well as the introduction of minimum unit pricing.

Perhaps you’re wondering what you could do to make a difference to your drinking habits?

First, know the recommended safe limits. A few beers after work or a few glasses of wine too often can take you over safe limits and store up health problems for the future. Men shouldn’t have more than 3-4 units a day (that’s a couple of pints of normal strength beer) and for women it’s 2-3 units a day (roughly an average sized glass of wine).

Doctors tell us how important it is to give your body a rest from the toxins in alcohol and advise that everyone should have at least 2 or 3 days off alcohol a week. Alcohol Concern runs the Dry January campaign to urge people to give up alcohol for a month and of the 17,312 people who took part this year, 81% said they would now continue to reduce the amount they drink. People also said they lost weight, had more energy, saved money, slept better and altogether felt good about themselves for staying off the booze for 31 days. Is it a challenge you could take up? Contact us at dryjanuary@alcoholconcern.org.uk.