Observations Alcohol and Public Health

Under the influence: author’s response to criticism by Institute of Economic Affairs

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1563 (Published 19 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1563
  1. Jonathan Gornall, freelance journalist, Colchester, Essex
  1. jgornall{at}mac.com

Snowdon and his colleagues are ideologically opposed to any kind of public health intervention on principle

Christopher Snowdon’s first response to my series of BMJ articles about the influence of the alcohol industry on public health policy was published on his blog, “Velvet Glove, Iron Fist,” on 9 January, and I thank him for taking the trouble to bring his interesting views to the attention of a wider audience.1 Any BMJ reader interested in learning more about Snowdon’s agenda should certainly visit his entertaining blog (http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.co.uk).

I also recommend a visit to the website of the Institute of Economic Affairs (www.iea.org.uk), for which Snowdon works as head of lifestyle economics. There, he sets out his position on public health interventions with impressive clarity: “If market liberals stand idly by as the state sets prices, restricts commercial speech and demonises industries (and their customers), they will stand for anything. Under the pretext of ‘public health,’ basic levers of competition—price, content and marketing—are increasingly falling under state control. With the advent of minimum pricing and plain packaging, the possibility of the government dictating how much a product sells for and what it looks like has become very real.”2

In his response to my BMJ article Snowdon expressed concern that it “assumes that statutory minimum price on a unit of alcohol is self evidently desirable and that, by implication, those who oppose it do so only out of sinister intentions guided by vested interests.” Actually, the article began with the fact that the government had decided that a minimum unit price was the right thing to do and that this public interest decision, taken by a democratically elected body, was overturned by vested commercial interests, supported by organisations such …

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