Alcohol alliance responds to government’s minimum price strategy

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 24 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f528
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Setting a minimum price for alcohol and banning multibuy deals is a good policy, says the Alcohol Health Alliance in its response to the Home Office’s public consultation on its alcohol strategy for England and Wales.1 But the price set should be 50p (€0.6; $0.8) per unit, not 45p, as this would save more lives and prevent more crime, the alliance says.

The alliance, which represents a wide range of bodies, including the British Medical Association and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, says that the government’s plan to set a minimum price2 would target the heaviest drinkers and that people who drank moderately should not be affected.

But in the Court of Session in Edinburgh this week, counsel for the Scotch Whisky Association, which is contesting the introduction of a minimum price in Scotland,3 argued that it would be the poorest drinkers and not the heaviest who would be hit. Aidan O’Neill QC said that minimum pricing was a market distortion. If increased prices were sought as a public health initiative, it could instead be done legally through rises in excise duty.

The Scottish law, passed in May, gained royal assent in June but will not be implemented until the court issues a ruling. The case is expected to last eight days.

In its response to the consultation for England and Wales, which closes on 6 February,4 the Alcohol Health Alliance welcomed the proposal to allow local authorities to take the health harms of alcohol into account when determining the density of licensing approvals in their area, but it said that the government should go further and make improving public health a licensing objective in its own right.

It opposes changes that would make it easier for premises—such as beauty salons, florists, or places where charitable events are held—to sell alcohol as a sideline, arguing that any such change would “normalise” alcohol as a regular consumer item and increase its sale.

Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities at the BMA, said, “Doctors witness the human cost of alcohol misuse every day, from emergency admissions to hospital to witnessing the damage to health caused by alcohol misuse on patients and their families. The evidence shows that more lives will be saved if the minimum price is set at 50p; therefore the BMA is calling on the government to listen to the evidence and set it at this level.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f528


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