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UK Government bows to industry pressure and abandons plans for minimum alcohol price

Britain’s Government has yesterday announced that it will not be taking forward proposals to introduce MUP at this time, but it would be legislating to ban sales below the cost of duty plus VAT.

18 July 2013. Despite being in possession of the latest evidence confirming that minimum unit pricing (MUP) is far more effective at tackling harm than banning ‘below cost sales’ of alcohol, the Home Office yesterday chose to ignore this evidence and abandon MUP in favour of the least effective option.

New research commissioned by the Government as part of its consultation on the Alcohol Strategs was also published yesterday by the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group in the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR). The report on the impacts of alcohol pricing policies shows that a 45p MUP will have a 40 to 50 times larger effect on consumption than banning below-cost sales.

ScHARR’s updated modelling data provide a comprehensive breakdown of the estimated consumption, financial, health and crime effects of a ban on below cost sales compared to a minimum unit price of 45p and 50p in England.

A ban on below cost sales will have a negligible effect on the annual number of units consumed by even harmful drinkers (3 units for harmful drinkers) compared to annual reductions made at a minimum price of 45p/unit (137 units per harmful drinker) and 50p/unit (200 units/drinker at harmful levels)

A ban on below cost sales will reduce 14 alcohol-related deaths in the general population in Year 10 of its introduction. At a minimum price of 45p/unit, 624 lives will be saved (554 harmful drinkers). At 50p/unit, 960 lives will be saved (812 harmful drinkers)

Scottish government is standing firm.

Health Secretary Alex Neil yesterday said: “The Scottish Government will not turn its back on the overwhelming evidence that underpins Minimum pricing for alcohol”.

“… while the UK Government’s decision not to proceed is very disappointing, it will have no impact on the Scottish Government's approach to the policy”.

Mariann Skar, Secretary General of The European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) says: “The health community is deeply disappointed with the British Government’s decision not to take forward proposals to introduce at this time a measure that has the potential of saving hundreds of lives in that country. Minimum pricing is a targeted policy that will tackle the problems caused by the cheapest alcohol consumed by harmful and heavy drinkers. There is sound evidence to suggest it will make a real difference to the number of alcohol related deaths, crimes and hospital admissions. This is a policy that has a broad support base, including doctors, police, emergency services and the wider health community. We regret to see that Cameron’s Government is not putting the health and wellbeing of its citizens ahead of industry’s commercial interests.”


Media contact: Mariann Skar, Tel: +32 (0) 2 736 05 72, GSM: +32 (0) 474 8300 41