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Over one million Scots are drinking at "potentially harmful levels", according to Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (Shaap) which reckons the real figure could be even higher.

Shaap based its calculations on a 2003 survey which found that "63 per cent of male drinkers said they had consumed more than four units on their heaviest drinking day of the previous week", while "57 per cent of women drank more than three units on their heaviest drinking day of the previous week".

However, the BBC notes that "official figures have previously suggested that people questioned in surveys report drinking less than half of the alcohol actually sold in the UK", meaning there's over fifty per cent of booze unaccounted for.

Whatever the true figure for Scottish consumption, Shaap's study "suggested that many people consumed more alcohol than was recommended by government guidelines".

Shaap's website says: "Over the past 40 years alcohol consumption in Scotland and the UK has doubled, with the UK now being amongst the heaviest drinking countries in the world.

"Alongside the rise in alcohol consumption, there has been a substantial increase in alcohol-related health problems, with people in Scotland paying a particularly high price for heavy drinking.

"Men and women in Scotland are now twice as likely to die an alcohol-related death compared to people in the rest of the UK. Scotland also has the highest death rates from liver disease in Western Europe."

Shaap chairman Dr Bruce Ritson said: "Alcohol policy has tended to focus on the minority of the drinking population who are the heaviest drinkers. However, there is a much bigger number of hazardous and harmful drinkers who account for most of the alcohol-related problems simply because they are a much larger group - over a million people in Scotland.

"What that means is that it's not enough to target only the heaviest drinkers. If we are serious about preventing harm, we need to have policies that impact on the whole population as well as the heaviest drinkers."

Shaap believes a ban on supermarket cut-price drink promotions could help address the problem. Regarding recent measures curbing these tempting offers, Ritson said they "signalled that the government was serious about reducing alcohol-related harm".

He concluded: "Alcohol policy offers another opportunity for the Scottish Government to show leadership once again, and we believe the Scottish people will fully support the government in their efforts." ®

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