Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing

How Brexit might affect public health

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 16 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2747
  1. Anne Gulland, journalist, London, UK
  1. agulland{at}

EU legislation covers everything from food labelling to disease control. Anne Gulland assesses the effects of leaving

Would Britain be more free to legislate on alcohol and tobacco pricing?

The United Kingdom already has some of the most stringent tobacco control policies in Europe. On 20 May it is set to become only the second country in the world after Australia to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, going far beyond the EU tobacco products directive.1

The UK also has the highest cigarette prices in the European Union. According to the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, the price of a premium packet of 20 cigarettes in the UK is £9.16 (€11.62; $13.23), compared with £5.46 in France, £4.26 in Germany, and £3.78 in Spain.2

The Scottish parliament passed legislation to introduce minimum unit pricing on alcohol in 2012. The legislation has still not come into force because it has been subject to a long running legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association. The European Court of Justice ruled in December that the Scottish plans are restrictive to the market but said that if …

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