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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Feb 23;14(3). pii: E221. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14030221.

Implementing a Public Health Objective for Alcohol Premises Licensing in Scotland: A Qualitative Study of Strategies, Values, and Perceptions of Evidence.

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Institute for Social Marketing, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK.
Alcohol Research UK, London SW1H 0HW, UK.
Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1H 9SH, UK.
West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Dumbarton G82 3PU, UK.
MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G2 3QB, UK.


The public health objective for alcohol premises licensing, established in Scotland in 2005, is unique globally. We explored how public health practitioners engaged with the licensing system following this change, and what helped or hindered their efforts. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 public health actors, audio-recorded, and analysed using an inductive framework approach. Many interviewees viewed the new objective as synonymous with reducing population-level alcohol consumption; however, this view was not always shared by licensing actors, some of whom did not accept public health as a legitimate goal of licensing, or prioritised economic development instead. Some interviewees were surprised that the public health evidence they presented to licensing boards did not result in their hoped-for outcomes; they reported that licensing officials did not always understand or value health data or statistical evidence. While some tried to give "impartial" advice to licensing boards, this was not always easy; others were clear that their role was one of "winning hearts and minds" through relationship-building with licensing actors over time. Notwithstanding the introduction of the public health objective, there remain significant, and political, challenges in orienting local premises licensing boards towards decisions to reduce the availability of alcohol in Scotland.


alcohol; availability; licensing; outlet density; public involvement

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