Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Low level alcohol consumption and the fetus

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 17 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:375

Rapid Response:

Higher alcohol taxes would also support alcohol-free pregnancies

Mukherjee et al make a good case for alcohol free pregnancies and for
health promotion messages to promote these [1]. However to provide a more
supportive environment it would also be desirable for the price of alcohol
to be higher. For example, raising tobacco taxes has been found to reduce
tobacco consumption by pregnant women as this population is particularly
sensitive to cigarette prices [2]. Furthermore, there are plenty of other
public health advantages of higher alcohol prices given the evidence that
these can: reduce drinking and driving and its consequences among all age
groups; lower the frequency of diseases, injuries, and deaths related to
alcohol use and abuse; and reduce alcohol-related violence and other crime
[3]. Another review also reported such benefits and noted that these
findings were “relevant for policy purposes because alcohol abuse imposes
large ‘external’ costs on others” [4]. Support for higher alcohol taxes by
the public is likely to be facilitated if governments use the revenue to
allow a reduction in income tax among low-income citizens and/or to fund
health promotion campaigns eg, for promoting alcohol-free pregnancies.


1) Mukherjee RAS, Hollins S, Abou-Saleh MT, Turk J. Low level alcohol
consumption and the fetus. BMJ 2005;330:375-376.

2) Ringel JS, Evans WN. Cigarette taxes and smoking during pregnancy.
Am J Public Health 2001;91:1851-6.

3) Chaloupka FJ, Grossman M, Saffer H. The effects of price on
alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. Alcohol Res Health

4) Cook PJ, Moore MJ. The economics of alcohol abuse and alcohol-
control policies. Price levels, including excise taxes, are effective at
controlling alcohol consumption. Raising excise taxes would be in the
public interest. Health Aff (Millwood) 2002;21:120-33.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 February 2005
Nick Wilson
Senior Lecturer (Public Health)
Wellington School of Medicine, Otago University, Wellington, New Zealand