Doctors hail alcohol pricing verdict

Posted on: 24th October 2016

Doctors and campaigners welcomed a legal ruling that minimum unit pricing of alcohol is legal and can be introduced in Scotland.

The BMA and the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), of which the British Liver Trust is a member, are now calling on England and Wales to follow suit.

Although the Scottish Parliament passed legislation in 2012 to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, more than four years later the policy had still not been implemented as a result of successive legal actions brought by the alcohol industry.

On 21 October, the Scottish Court of Sessions published the ruling quashing the legal challenges.

Commenting on the ruling, BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Bennie said it would be “warmly welcomed by health campaigners and everyone who recognises that action is needed to improve Scotland’s damaging relationship with alcohol".

“Every year that has been lost to the alcohol industry’s delaying tactics has brought with it a human cost in lives lost and health damaged.

“The alcohol industry needs to accept the judgement and stop attempting to put their own agenda ahead of the public interest.”

Dr Bennie added that the verdict "must mark an end to the delays and minimum unit pricing must now be implemented as a matter of urgency".

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the AHA, said he hoped to see minimum unit pricing (MUP) "speedily implemented" in Scotland and called on the rest of Britain to follow.

"Now is the time to act, even if the global alcohol producers, prioritising commercial interests over Scotland’s health, try to delay further by another appeal. Now is also the time for England and Wales to follow suit and introduce MUP. The UK government committed to introducing MUP in 2012, and the public support the measure. Government-commissioned research estimates that in the first year following the implementation of MUP in England, there would be nearly 140 fewer crimes per day,” he said.

Sir Ian explained that MUP leaves pub prices untouched, and targets the cheap alcohol which is preferentially consumed by children and dependent drinkers.

Recent AHA research found that alcohol is being sold for as little as 16p per unit, with 3 litre bottles of white cider, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, available for just £3.49.

"MUP would also be of greatest benefit to those on low income, with 8 out of 10 lives saved coming from the lowest income groups, and greater harm reductions felt by these groups. The government has spoken of its commitment to even out life chances, and MUP would go a long way in furthering this agenda," he added.