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Alcohol Abuse Must be solved with Action

Scotland's epidemic of alcohol abuse can only be tackled by more action and less talk according to opposition parties, yesterday as the health minister// voiced support for higher taxes on drinks.

Leading doctors have launched a new group called Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) to raise awareness of alcohol-related health problems and push for action to cut alcohol misuse.

However the SNP and Conservative parties say the Executive needs to deal with the problem now, rather than wait for more discussion of the issue.

These concerns were raised after Andy Kerr, the Scottish health minister, indicated his support for Patricia Hewitt, Westminster's health secretary’s proposed hike in taxes on alcohol, particularly products like alcopops which are popular with young people.

He said, "I agree with the point about cost."

"These views have been aired last week by the Health Minister in the UK to the Treasury and I support those views."

While the Executive has no powers over tax matters, Mr Kerr said they would be sharing their opinions with Westminster. SHAAP, formed by the Scottish Intercollegiate Group on Alcohol, will also consider tax and pricing issues.

The Executive has its own group - the Scottish Ministerial Advisory Committee on Alcohol Problems - while charities such as Alcohol Focus Scotland also operate across the country.

Shona Robison, SNP health spokeswoman, said: "There is a danger of this new group being more talking and not enough action. Most people recognise where the problems are and it's now about taking action to deal with it.

"The Executive may not have direct powers on taxation but there is nothing to stop Andy Kerr confronting the supermarkets who are using alcohol as a loss-leading product."

According to Nanette Milne, the Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman, more needed to be done to enforce the law to cut underage drinking
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