A NEW interactive map of Scotland has been created to highlight the health risks linked to neighbourhoods with an excess of alcohol and tobacco outlets.
Experts from Edinburgh University will meet MSPs at the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on tobacco and health today to highlight how a high concentration of outlets can contribute to ill-health and premature death in Scotland.
City licensing boss Councillor Eric Milligan has previously argued there is no link between overprovision and alcohol-related harm – pitting him against NHS Lothian and Police Scotland.
The meeting at Holyrood coincides with the launch of a website that allows users to map alcohol and tobacco outlet density across Scotland, alongside death rates linked to alcohol use, lung cancer and lung disease.
Dr Niamh Shortt, a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University’s School of GeoSciences, who led the project, said: “Tobacco and alcohol use are two of the leading causes of preventable illness and deaths in Scotland. The licensing boards in Scotland all have a clause about overprovision so for people who are concerned about an excess of outlets in their area, they can use this tool to find out.”
Previous work by the team has shown the link between retail outlets and ill-health is widespread and not only restricted to the most deprived areas.
Reducing the density of outlets selling these products could help improve public health, as the death rate from alcohol doubles in the areas with the highest number of outlets, Dr Shortt said.
She said: “It is not just making alcohol and tobacco less readily available but about changing the social norms and attitudes around both products. Alcohol and tobacco are both seen as everyday items, like bread and milk, as they are positioned next to them in shops.”
Last year, Edinburgh approved more new applications for licensed premises than anywhere else, despite having the highest density of alcohol outlets in Scotland, said Barbara O’Donnell, acting chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland.
She said: “We hope that this new website, with the information it provides on alcohol outlets and health harms will help communities in Edinburgh play a more active part in the licensing process.”
The news was welcomed by Green councillor Chas Booth, who has campaigned for a more stringent licensing policy.
He said: “This seems like an extremely useful resource. It is absolutely essential that if we are to reduce the harm that alcohol does to people that we have an accurate picture of where the areas of overprovision are within the city and what impact they are having.”
The interactive map is available at www.cresh.org.uk/webmap.