Analysis: Industry can no longer deny the link between unit price and consumption
AS A doctor, I treat people with alcohol problems every day. I see lives ruined and I see lives cut short. With my colleagues across the medical professions, I will continue to fight for minimum unit pricing of alcohol.
This is an essential tool to protect vulnerable people from the irresponsible marketing and activities that a self-regulating industry has championed, for the benefit of its shareholders.
The latest NHS figures show as the cheapest alcohol has increased in price, its sales have decreased and overall alcohol sales have also decreased. What clearer demonstration can we have of the link between unit price of alcohol and its consumption? And how outrageous is it for the industry to deny that such links exist?
Alcohol misuse remains a major cause of illness and death in Scotland. About 50 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women drink alcohol at levels higher than current guidelines. Alcohol problems disproportionately affect poor communities. Scottish drinkers consume far more high strength alcohol at the cheaper end of the market than their counterparts in England, predominantly spirits. This is the kind of product that will be affected by the introduction of minimum pricing.
The Medical and Nursing Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, working together through Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, have been consistent in calls for the introduction of minimum pricing as a vital component in addressing the public health consequences of alcohol.
Many studies have shown price increases have a substantial impact on reducing consumption and lead to significant health and social benefits. Reducing the amount we drink would also lead to considerable financial savings in the NHS, criminal justice system and the workplace. It is at least arguable the price rises at the cheaper end of the alcohol market over the past couple of years have contributed to the fall in consumption in Scotland over the same period.
• Dr Peter Rice is chair of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems.
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