Public-health experts gathered in the North East last week to discuss tobacco and alcohol, which cost the nation billions through death, disease, social care and policing.
Tobacco and alcohol as industrial epidemics: From global to local, is the first national conference of its kind to be held in the region and was hosted jointly by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, Fresh, the regional tobacco control office, and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies.
The conference explored the progress made in the North East over the past decade and discuss decisive action to address future challenges.
It brought together leading international experts in public health – from as far afield as Australia – to address what needs to be done to counter the major problems and costs to society from smoking and alcohol consumption.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “Enough alcohol is sold for every drinker to consume well above the Chief Medical Officer’s weekly guidelines and, in many ways, we’re just at the beginning of the journey when it comes to tackling the problems alcohol causes.
“When we look at what we can learn from our colleagues in tobacco, we realise that many of the issues are very similar.
“In the North East, we are already ensuring people are better informed about the risks of alcohol consumption through mass media campaigns, but nationally we also need health warning labels and alcohol is too available, too affordable and too widely promoted, as tobacco once was.
“We need to challenge the alcohol industry and call for policy changes that make a real difference.
“We need the Government to introduce a minimum unit price so the most harmful alcohol products are no longer sold at pocket money prices.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “Falls in death rates from major diseases linked to smoking is just one example of where our region is improving faster than anywhere else in the country. This is making a real difference to real lives.
“Still though, every year, too many people are watching their loved ones suffer and die an early death from smoking.”