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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 18:09 GMT
Drink culture death rate warning
Ambulance on street
Efforts are under way to reduce binge drinking and its impact
Scotland needs a "major cultural shift" to address a faster rising rate of drink related deaths than anywhere in western Europe, it has been warned.

A Lancet study shows male deaths from cirrhosis of the liver have quadrupled since the 1950s, with the female death rate almost trebling.

The Scottish Executive warned that a culture of heavy drinking carried a huge financial and human cost.

The Scottish Conservatives called for more comprehensive alcohol education.

The cirrhosis research was conducted by King's College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

RISING CIRRHOSIS DEATH RATES
1950s:
England and Wales:
Men: 3.4
Women: 2.2
Scotland:
Men: 8.2
Women: 6.1
2001:
England and Wales:
Men: 14.1
Women: 7.7
Scotland:
Men: 34.4
Women: 16.1
Figures are deaths from cirrhosis/100,000 people/year

It calculated death rates for liver cirrhosis using data from the World Health Organization.

Death rates increased during the 1970s, accelerated in the 1980s, and again from the nineties onwards, in contrast to a decline in other European countries by 20% to 30%.

Scotland's Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said: "We are attempting to change a centuries-old booze culture - clearly such a change cannot be achieved overnight.

"Government does have a role to play in tackling alcohol related problems, but each and every one of us has a responsibility to recognise the effects of alcohol and to drink sensibly."

Mr Macdonald said Scottish ministers were committed to working with a range of bodies such as the NHS, the licensed trade, schools, parents and the police to achieve a "major cultural shift" in attitudes towards drinking.

He added that Scotland's new licensing laws included measures to tackle irresponsible promotions that fuelled binge drinking.

Early intervention

Conservative health spokeswoman Dr Nanette Milne said the findings were a massive cause for concern.

She said: "At the moment the bulk of executive advertising tends to focus on parents with children approaching puberty.

"But in reality we need to start educating people before their children are born, starting with mothers in ante-natal classes.

"There needs to be a much greater awareness of the damaging effects created by unrelenting alcohol consumption, so that the next generation does not end up where we are now."


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