Minimum alcohol pricing in England

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1063 (Published 21 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1063
  1. Cordelia E M Coltart, clinical adviser to the president,
  2. Ian T Gilmore, chair of UK Alcohol Alliance
  1. 1Royal College of Physicians, London NW1 4LE, UK
  1. igilmore{at}liverpool.ac.uk

A start, but not enough

Since the BMJ last highlighted the health harms of alcohol,1 there has been a welcome acknowledgement by government in England that cheap drink is an important factor in driving these harms. Ministers recently revealed plans to set a minimum price by imposing a ban on selling alcohol for less than the combined tax and duty paid on it. This would result in minimum prices of £0.21 (€0.25; $0.34) per unit of beer and £0.28 per unit of spirits, which equate to £0.38 for a can of weak lager, £2.03 for a bottle of wine, and £10.71 for a litre of spirits. Although, in principle, this is an important step, in practice the price floor has been set so low that it will have no effect whatsoever on the health of the nation.

Alex Segre/Alamy

On the positive side, for the first time recent statistics suggest an overall reduction in harm associated with alcohol, with a 6% decline in alcohol related deaths and 6% reduction in consumption in 2009.2 3 However, these are data from a single year on a background of marked increases in consumption and …

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