Intended for healthcare professionals


Alcohol harms: the UK government is missing in action

BMJ 2023; 383 doi: (Published 15 November 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;383:e078472
  1. Jim McCambridge, professor1,
  2. Matthew Lesch, lecturer2,
  3. Mary Madden, senior research fellow3
  1. 1Addictive Behaviours and Public Health, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK
  2. 2Department of Politics, University of York
  3. 3Department of Health Sciences, University of York
  1. Correspondence to: J McCambridge jim.mccambridge{at}

Progress remains dismal despite international commitments made in 2022

This autumn the UK government has initiated two public consultations on alcohol policy. The first is about labelling of no alcohol and low alcohol products, proposing to increase the amount of alcohol permitted to be described as “alcohol free” 10-fold to 0.5%.1 The second concerns clinical guidelines for alcohol treatment services,2 which follow the restoration of funding to the alcohol treatment system3 and will apply across the UK.

Approaches to alcohol policy have varied considerably in the UK. After lengthy opposition by industry, the Scottish government implemented a minimum unit price on alcohol in 20184 and is consulting on continuation and raising the price.5 A minimum unit price exists in Wales but not in Northern Ireland. In England, the policy remains under review, as it has been since 2013.

The Scottish government recently consulted on restricting alcohol marketing.6 Industry self-regulation is currently the norm. The conflict of interest this entails is evident, with the Northern Ireland self-regulatory body encouraging some undefined notion of responsible consumption …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription