Evidence grows that minimum pricing for alcohol reduces harm for consumers
Friday 19 October 2012
The Alcohol Health Alliance welcomes a new Canadian study which joins mounting evidence showing how minimum pricing can alter drinking habits and dramatically reduce the harm caused by alcohol misuse.
The research from the University of Victoria in Canada examines the impact of new and increased minimum alcohol prices in Saskatchewan, including setting higher prices for higher alcohol content.
It showed consumers tend to switch to less potent alcoholic drinks when minimum prices are raised for cheap, strong drinks. The report also shows the measure successfully reduces the consumption of ethanol, the harmful ingredient of alcoholic drinks, and so lowers the risk of harmful health effects.
It comes as a consultation on minimum unit pricing of alcohol is expected to be launched by the UK Government this Autumn and as the Scottish Whisky Association take legal action against the Scottish Government for introducing a minimum unit price in Scotland.
Eric Appleby, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern said:
"This is yet more evidence of the clear link between alcohol behavior and price which is why we're fighting so hard for a 50p minimum unit price.
"We've long known the benefits, both social and for health, that minimum pricing will bring and this report shows what a targeted and effective measure it could be.
"We have a real opportunity here to reduce the harm caused by strong, cheap drink, and we cannot afford to waste that."
Katherine Brown, Director of Policy at the UK Institute of Alcohol Studies said:
"It is widely accepted that raising the price of alcohol reduces levels of health and social harm, however minimum pricing is a relatively innovative mechanism which enables governments to target the strongest, cheapest drinks that cause the most problems in society.
"This targeted effect cannot be achieved through traditional taxation methods because of EU tax rules, so evidence to show the effectiveness of minimum pricing in practice means we can confidently look to this policy solution to help turn the tide against alcohol harm in the UK."
The report looked at sales data from both before and after the comprehensive minimum unit pricing strategy was implemented in Saskatchewan, Canada. The study found consumption of higher-strength beers and wines decreased the most - a 10-per cent increase in the price of cheap high alcohol-strength beer (greater than 6.5 per cent) results in a 22-per cent reduction in consumption, compared with an 8.17-per cent reduction for beer with lower alcohol content. Overall, the study found that a comprehensive 10-per cent increase in minimum prices brings an 8.43-per cent decrease in consumption, more than double the 3.4-per cent reduction in alcohol consumption found in an earlier minimum pricing study of data from British Columbia, where only the price of cheap spirits was increased with regularity.
Dr. Tim Stockwell, CARBC Director and lead author of the report, 001 250 415 7376 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Conroy, Alcohol Concern, 020 7566 9803 / email@example.com
Notes to Editors:
- The report called The Raising of Minimum Alcohol Prices in Saskatchewan, Canada: Impacts on Consumption and implications for Public Health was published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday 18 October 2012.
- It was co authored by the Centre for Addictions Research of British Colombia (CARBC) at the University of Victoria and the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.
- The 'earlier' minimum pricing study referred to in the final paragraph was also conducted by the CARBC.
- The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) brings together medical bodies, patient representatives, charities and alcohol health campaigners working to reduce the damage to health caused by alcohol misuse. Eric Appleby and Katherine Brown are both members of the Executive Committee of the AHA. Find out more about the AHA.