Intended for healthcare professionals


How a minimum unit price for alcohol was scuppered

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 08 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g23
  1. Ian Gilmore, professor of medicine1,
  2. Mike Daube, professor of health policy2
  1. 1University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZX, UK
  2. 2Curtin University, Bentley, WA, Australia
  1. I.Gilmore{at}

Remember Disraeli: “the first consideration of a minister should be the health of the people”

Taking advice on health policy from those with direct commercial interests has not been successful in the past, most notably in the case of tobacco. We should not be surprised, therefore, to read that evidence based alcohol policy in the United Kingdom has been systematically subverted by those who supply or sell the product. Of particular importance is the sudden decision not to pursue a minimum unit price for alcohol in England, despite personal commitments from the prime minister.1 But even weathered public health campaigners will be dismayed to read about the politics behind that change.

After consulting on the strategy, the Home Office minister Jeremy Browne announced to parliament that he lacked “concrete evidence” that responsible drinkers on low incomes would not be greatly disadvantaged by minimum unit pricing. However, we read that the government commissioned and received that evidence, but it was embargoed until after the announcement. Also, a review of how that consultation was conducted raises important questions about its integrity.2 This, and evidence presented by Gornall, provides a strong case for the …

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