Minimum unit pricing for alcoholBMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5617 (Published 30 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5617
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Professor Stockwell provides a very helpful synopsis which explains why health organisations throughout Europe support Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for alcohol. The political and legal processes mean that the implementation of the policy is complex and takes a long time and there is a risk that only those heavily involved can keep track. However it is important that the broad support the medical profession and other groups have shown for MUP is maintained. The opponents of MUP would be happy for the issue to disappear into the long grass.
He expresses surprise that the alcohol industry has opposed MUP in the UK. The position is more complex than that. There is considerable support for MUP within the alcohol industry particularly among the pub trade and smaller producers. The opposition comes from producers who operate globally and from large retailers, in particular supermarkets and it has been those large organisations which have dominated the perception of the diverse industry interests.
Last month Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, a project of the Scottish Royal Colleges and Faculties, held an event where industry supporters of MUP spoke of the harm which the proliferation of cheap supermarket alcohol caused to UK business and growth. Health experts spoke of the health harm. A report of the event can be found here. http://www.shaap.org.uk/images/mup-event-summary.pdf
Regarding the significance of the current European Court of Justice consideration of the Scottish MUP legislation, our legal advice is that the ECJ considers the proportionality of each case individually. Action that is justified for alcohol in Scotland may not be justified for obesity in Greece. However, this will be a test of the priority which the European Union and its institutions gives to health considerations and a broad coalition of European health organisations is working to ensure the primacy of health.
Competing interests: Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems has been campaigning for Minimum Unit Price for Alcohol as part of a response to alcohol related harm since 2006.