Background: Timely tracking of national patterns of alcohol consumption is needed to inform and evaluate strategies and policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm. Between 2014 until at least 2017, the Alcohol Toolkit Study (ATS) will provide such tracking data and link these with policy changes and campaigns. By virtue of its connection with the 'Smoking Toolkit Study' (STS), links will also be examined between alcohol and smoking-related behaviour.
Methods/design: The ATS consists of cross-sectional household, computer-assisted interviews of representative samples of adults in England aged 16+. Each month a new sample of approximately 1800 adults complete the survey (~n = 21,600 per year). All respondents who consent to be followed-up are asked to complete a telephone survey 6 months later. The ATS has been funded to collect at least 36 waves of baseline and 6-month follow-up data across a period of 3 years. Questions cover alcohol consumption and related harm (AUDIT), socio-demographic characteristics, attempts to reduce or cease consumption and factors associated with this, and exposure to health professional advice on alcohol. The ATS complements the STS, which has been tracking key performance indicators relating to smoking since 2006. As both the ATS and STS involve the same respondents, it is possible to assess interactions between changes in alcohol and tobacco use. Data analysis will involve: 1) Descriptive and exploratory analyses undertaken according to a pre-defined set of principles while allowing scope for pursuing lines of enquiry that arise from prior analyses; 2) Hypothesis testing according to pre-specified, published analysis plans. Descriptive data on important trends will be published monthly on a dedicated website: www.alcoholinengland.info .
Discussion: The Alcohol Toolkit Study will improve understanding of population level factors influencing alcohol consumption and be an important resource for policy evaluation and planning.