The impact of minimum unit pricing in the new UK alcohol strategy

by John Holmes

In March this year the UK government released its Alcohol Strategy for England and Wales. Although weaknesses in sections on treatment and the promotion of alcohol have been criticised, the Strategy has been broadly welcomed by those concerned about alcohol misuse. In particular, the commitment to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol has been hailed as a significant step forward in addressing the country’s alcohol problems. But how much impact will minimum pricing have?


Alcohol consumption and alcohol dependence in the EU: room for improvement

by Jürgen Rehm & Kevin Shield

Alcohol consumption has long been a major risk factor leading to mortality, morbidity, and social harms in the EU, with a large proportion of this burden being caused by heavy consumption. Alcohol dependence is arguably the most problematic health consequence of alcohol consumption from a public health view.

A substantial portion of the alcohol‐related burden in the EU is avoidable; cost‐effective measures such as taxation of alcohol, bans on alcohol marketing, and drunk‐driving countermeasures have the potential to reduce the burden at the population level, and interventions such as pharmacotherapy, counselling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and motivational interviewing may reduce the burden at the individual level. In our recently published book, Alcohol consumption, alcohol dependence and attributable burden of disease in Europe, we estimate the burden of mortality attributable to all alcohol consumption, to heavy drinking and to alcohol dependence, and evaluate the effect on this burden of increasing the number of individuals who receive treatment for alcohol dependence.


Finnish government takes its responsibility and does not rely on window dressing by the alcohol industry

By Avalon de Bruijn

The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health proposes further restrictions on alcohol marketing. The proposed regulation contains a volume ban on alcohol marketing: In media in which alcohol is still allowed, only product information can be shown. The current Loi Evin in France is used as an inspiration.

Considering that alcohol marketing has a moderate but significant effect on alcohol consumption among young people, alcohol marketing regulations are an important element in an evidence-based alcohol policy to reduce alcohol consumption. It therefore is a wise decision by the Finnish Ministry to come up with such a proposal and not to rely on voluntary rules by the alcohol industry.


EU and alcohol policies internationally

by Robin Room

Centre for Social Research on Alcohol & Drugs, Stockholm University

At present the EU and its member states routinely act against the public health interest on alcohol issues in the international arena.

A recent example is the discussions in the World Trade Organization process about Thailand’s intention to introduce graphic warning labels on alcohol. The EU as a whole and a number of alcohol-exporting countries have been arguing that Thailand’s measures would be a technical restraint on trade, not allowed under free-trade agreements. The EU asked whether Thailand has considered alternative measures less burdensome on trade such as information and education campaigns. But such measures, as we know from the research literature, would be ineffective. The EU also complained that requiring the warning to be on the front of the bottle would interfere with the producers’ own product labelling. To give such labelling priority is not acting in the public health interest.


A step forward with the new UK alcohol strategy...

by Peter Anderson

Congratulations to Prime Minister Cameron and the UK government for putting forward an alcohol strategy that demonstrates joined up action to a common problem, is aligned with evidence, and consistent with public health strategies. Its jewel in the crown is the proposal for an introduction of a minimum price per gram of alcohol. This would mean that the whole of the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, together with the Republic of Ireland may all come aligned in the same direction, with estimated major immediate and sustained benefit in saving lives, reducing crime, benefiting employment, and, even giving extra income for the alcohol industry.