22 February 2019 In Drinking & Driving

BACKGROUND: Drink driving is an important risk factor for road traffic accidents (RTAs), which cause high levels of morbidity and mortality globally. Lowering the permitted blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers is a common public health intervention that is enacted in countries and jurisdictions across the world. In Scotland, on Dec 5, 2014, the BAC limit for drivers was reduced from 0.08 g/dL to 0.05 g/dL. We therefore aimed to evaluate the effects of this change on RTAs and alcohol consumption.

METHODS: In this natural experiment, we used an observational, comparative interrupted time-series design by use of data on RTAs and alcohol consumption in Scotland (the interventional group) and England and Wales (the control group). We obtained weekly counts of RTAs from police accident records and we estimated weekly off-trade (eg, in supermarkets and convenience stores) and 4-weekly on-trade (eg, in bars and restaurants) alcohol consumption from market research data. We also used data from automated traffic counters as denominators to calculate RTA rates. We estimated the effect of the intervention on RTAs by use of negative binomial panel regression and on alcohol consumption outcomes by use of seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average models. Our primary outcome was weekly rates of RTAs in Scotland, England, and Wales. This study is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN38602189.

FINDINGS: We assessed the weekly rate of RTAs and alcohol consumption between Jan 1, 2013, and Dec 31, 2016, before and after the BAC limit came into effect on Dec 5, 2014. After the reduction in BAC limits for drivers in Scotland, we found no significant change in weekly RTA rates after adjustment for seasonality and underlying temporal trend (rate ratio 1.01, 95% CI 0.94-1.08; p=0.77) or after adjustment for seasonality, the underlying temporal trend, and the driver characteristics of age, sex, and socioeconomic deprivation (1.00, 0.96-1.06; p=0.73). Relative to RTAs in England and Wales, where the reduction in BAC limit for drivers did not occur, we found a 7% increase in weekly RTA rates in Scotland after this reduction in BAC limit for drivers (1.07, 1.02-1.13; p=0.007 in the fully-adjusted model). Similar findings were observed for serious or fatal RTAs and single-vehicle night-time RTAs. The change in legislation in Scotland was associated with no change in alcohol consumption, measured by per-capita off-trade sales (-0.3%, -1.7 to 1.1; p=0.71), but a 0.7% decrease in alcohol consumption measured by per-capita on-trade sales (-0.7%, -0.8 to -0.5; p<0.0001).

INTERPRETATION: Lowering the driving BAC limit to 0.05 g/dL from 0.08 g/dL in Scotland was not associated with a reduction in RTAs, but this change was associated with a small reduction in per-capita alcohol consumption from on-trade alcohol sales. One plausible explanation is that the legislative change was not suitably enforced-for example with random breath testing measures. Our findings suggest that changing the legal BAC limit for drivers in isolation does not improve RTA outcomes. These findings have significant policy implications internationally as several countries and jurisdictions consider a similar reduction in the BAC limit for drivers.

FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme.

05 December 2018 In General Health

Evidence on the relationship between alcohol consumption and body mass index (BMI) is mixed, particularly for young adults. This study explored the relationship between energy obtained from alcoholic beverages and BMI using data for 18(-)25 year-olds (n = 7691) from pooled cross-sections of the 2008(-)2014 Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey. Energy obtained from alcoholic beverages (excluding mixers) on the heaviest drinking day in the past week was expressed as percentage of total recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of energy (% RDA Energy). Linear regressions were estimated of BMI on alcohol intake categories controlling for intake frequency, physical activity, longstanding illness and other covariates, with separate analyses for men and women, and by beverage type. Significant associations with BMI were observed with the 'Very High' category of alcohol intake (>75% RDA Energy) for men (p < 0.001, 1.74, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.98, 2.49) and with the "High" (>50% to 75% RDA Energy) (p < 0.001, 1.67, 95% CI 0.26, 2.58) and above category for women, when compared with the Low (>0(-)25% RDA Energy) category. Young adults drinking the highest levels of alcohol on a single occasion were more likely to be obese than those with the lowest intake. Interventions to address internationally rising youth obesity rates should also consider reducing alcohol consumption by increasing alcohol prices, and reducing availability and marketing exposure.

27 July 2018 In General Health

Purpose: The placement of warning labels on alcoholic beverages is a policy area with renewed interest, yet a strong evidence base regarding the efficacy of text-based or pictorial warning labels has still to emerge. Increased interest by policymakers has spurred research into potential alcohol warning label designs and messages. The purpose of this article is to draw together recearch in the alcohol warnings literature.

Design/methodology/approach: The current study seeks to review research that has sought to examine the effectiveness of alcohol warning labels. Searches for English-language articles (since 2000) using the terms "alcohol" and "warning label*" were conducted in 2015 across four databases (Web of Science, PubMed, PsycInfo and Cochrane). Articles were included if they empirically assessed the effectiveness and/or design of alcohol warning labels. Only studies that addressed the targeted individual consumer (consistent with downstream social marketing) were included. A narrative analysis approach was used for the 15 articles identified.

Findings: Findings are reported on five themes covering the design of the warning, starting with the use of imagery or recommendations, followed by a focus on the warning messages and whether they are specific, use signal words and are based on qualitative or quantitative information.

Research limitations/implications: Overall, there was little consistency in approach and measures, with very limited research having explored the potential of pictorial warning labels. Numerous research gaps are identified; thus, much more research is needed in this area. The evidence base is weak and caution is needed by policymakers regarding the introduction and implementation of alcohol warning labels. Limitations are discussed.

Originality/value: The review provides a timely up-to-date evaluation of the alcohol warning labels literature that has seen a recent resurgence but has not been critically reviewed.

28 August 2015 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

AIMS: To explore how the concept of lay epidemiology can enhance understandings of how drinkers make sense of current UK drinking guidelines.

METHODS: Qualitative study using 12 focus groups in four sites in northern England and four sites in central Scotland. Participants were 66 male and female drinkers, aged between 19 and 65 years, of different socio-economic backgrounds. Data were analysed thematically using a conceptual framework of lay epidemiology.

RESULTS: Current drinking guidelines were perceived as having little relevance to participants' drinking behaviours and were generally disregarded. Daily guidelines were seen as irrelevant by drinkers whose drinking patterns comprised heavy weekend drinking. The amounts given in the guidelines were seen as unrealistic for those motivated to drink for intoxication, and participants measured alcohol intake in numbers of drinks or containers rather than units. Participants reported moderating their drinking, but this was out of a desire to fulfil work and family responsibilities, rather than concerns for their own health. The current Australian and Canadian guidelines were preferred to UK guidelines, as they were seen to address many of the above problems.

CONCLUSIONS: Drinking guidelines derived from, and framed within, solely epidemiological paradigms lack relevance for adult drinkers who monitor and moderate their alcohol intake according to their own knowledge and risk perceptions derived primarily from experience. Insights from lay epidemiology into how drinkers regulate and monitor their drinking should be used in the construction of drinking guidelines to enhance their credibility and efficacy.

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