Minimum alcohol pricing goes ahead in Scotland after drinks industry loses legal battleBMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5302 (Published 15 November 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5302
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Christie reported very good news: the decision of the UK’s Supreme Court ending to the five year fight about minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland.(1) It is one of the most effective measures for a comprehensive alcohol control policy, and that’s maybe why it is not implemented yet. However, scapegoating the Scotch Whisky Association for its appeal is missing the woods for the trees.
First, France has lobbied against the Act passed by the Scottish Parliament with Royal Assent to impose a minimum price per unit of alcohol, claiming it “would be disastrous on the balance of European trade”(http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-22188373)
Second, industries' only aim is to sell their products, it is shareholders’ priority. This is not specific to alcohol, it concerns tobacco, salt, sugar, processed food, Diesel and even the pharmaceutical industry, the biggest defrauder of the US government.(2)
The choice is either a wealthy economy or healthy people. French electors deliberately chose economy as a priority, not public health. Indeed, the “Wise persons” (3 women and 4 men), as for every presidential election, evaluated public health programmes of 2017 main candidates and published the results in various main newspapers. (http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2017/02/26/en-france-la-sante-reste-... ; http://www.leparisien.fr/laparisienne/sante/presidentielle-les-engagemen...) The one elected ranked before the last one. (http://www.securite-sanitaire.org/reponses2017/commentaires5.pdf) The new French President hired as special advisor for agriculture the CEO of "Vins et Société", the wine professional organisation. (http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/president-macron-wine-adviser-bourolle... ) Alcohol is France's second biggest export sector after the aerospace industry and France is a democracy. The consensus has been an old one: two parliament’s votes, one with a conservative government in 2009, the other with a labour one in 2015, nullified the effectiveness of the French Évin’s Law implemented in 1991 to protect young people from alcohol advertising.(3,4)
1 Christie B. Minimum alcohol pricing goes ahead in Scotland after drinks industry loses legal battle. BMJ 2017;359:j5302.
2 Braillon A. Drug industry is now biggest defrauder of US government. . BMJ 2012;344:d8219.
3 Braillon A, Dubois G. Alcohol control policy: evidence-based medicine versus evidence-based marketing. Addiction 2011;106:852-3.
4 Gallopel-Morvan K, Spilka S, Mutatayi C, Rigaud A, Lecas F, Beck F. France's Évin Law on the control of alcohol advertising: content, effectiveness and limitations. Addiction 2017;112 (Suppl 1):86-93.
Competing interests: No conflict of interest but interest for conflict: The editor of “la Revue du vin de France” warned (06/21//2017) AB is a member of the “hygienist lobby.”(http://www.larvf.com/vin-cote-rotie-contre-lexomil-audrey-bourolleau,4540951.asp)
Years ago, the All Party Parliamentary Group on alcohol debated a minimum price for alcohol extensively (with valuable input from Scottish policy-makers). A clear consensus was reached that this intervention was likely to reduce death and disease from sales in shops of "cheap booze", at little cost to taxpayers, and without disrupting licensed sales from rural pubs that can play a social, community role. The news that Scotland can now proceed with minimum pricing is good news indeed.
However, in terms of Population Health, the actual amount of harm prevented needs to measured reliably, so that future roll-out of this intervention can have a credible evidence base. For a baseline in England, we need to make the wisest use of the Local Alcohol Profiles  so that any subsequent impact of introducing a minimum price for English drinkers can be accurately monitored. At present, deaths from liver disease are rising steadily here, and I really hope could will be reversed. In the short term, given the social gradient for health related to alcohol, I think we may also see a rapid reduction in suicides among men in the most deprived neighbourhoods.  Adult male suicide has also been increasing, in just the areas where rates of unemployment or insecure employment are high. Most men faced with a personal crisis who kill themselves, are drunk at the time.
Right now in 2017 is the time to start appropriate baseline measures, assuming that the passage and implementation of any new alcohol legislation will need about 2 years.
 Local Alcohol Profiles for England: November 2017. London: Public Health England (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil... )
 Caan W. Unemployment and suicide: is alcohol the missing link? Lancet 2009; 374: 1241-1242.
Competing interests: Co-Chair, Alcohol special interest group, Faculty of Public Health, and member British Society for Population Studies.