Editorials

Minimum unit pricing for alcohol

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5617 (Published 30 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5617
  1. Tim Stockwell, director
  1. 1Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  1. timstock{at}uvic.ca

Europe to follow Canada’s lead, if the courts allow

Rarely has a public health policy attracted as much national attention as minimum unit pricing for alcohol, the harm reduction strategy at the centre of an intense and unresolved debate in the United Kingdom. Indeed, the Scottish parliament’s 2012 legislation to introduce minimum unit pricing is now being contested in a European Union wide legal battle. In a linked paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.g5452) Brennan and colleagues’ report estimates that introducing minimum unit pricing in England would be 40 to 50 times more effective than the government’s recent policy of a ban on below cost selling as a means of tackling problems caused by cheap alcohol.1

The concept of minimum unit pricing in the United Kingdom involves setting a floor price, such as £0.50 (€0.62; $0.81) for a “unit” or 8 g of alcohol (approximately half a pint of beer, a small glass of wine, or measure of spirits). From a public health perspective it has elegance and an evidence base: the harm from alcohol is directly related to the dose taken by people and populations,2 price powerfully determines dose,3 and cheap alcohol is sought by the heaviest drinkers.4 Furthermore, cheap alcohol is highly responsive …

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