Alcohol industry puts profits before health

GAVIN Hewitt (Another Voice, 19 May) is correct to state that the Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) opposition to minimum unit pricing (MUP) has been consistent. The SWA has consistently sought to mislead politicians and the public about the impact of MUP, claiming that it is ineffective but providing no evidence to support this claim.

All credible scientific opinion accepts the link between alcohol price, consumption and harm. The only dissenting voice is the alcohol industry. Recent evidence from Canada demonstrates that a 10 per cent increase in average minimum alcohol prices was associated with a 32 per cent reduction in wholly 
alcohol-caused deaths. The alcohol industry’s attempts to distort this evidence have been roundly rebutted and found to be without foundation.

Claims that MUP will not impact on hazardous and harmful drinkers and will penalise moderate drinkers are similarly unfounded. The recent judgment issued by the Court of Session found that there was good evidence to suggest that MUP was an effective measure and was targeted to achieve the government’s aim of reducing harmful and hazardous drinking: other pricing measures were less certain in their effect and more likely to affect the people who the government did not wish to affect.

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Multinational alcohol companies exist to sell alcohol and make a profit. This overriding commercial imperative conflicts with the goal of reduced alcohol harm, which requires a reduction in alcohol consumption. The most effective way to achieve reduced consumption is by regulating the price, availability and marketing of alcohol.

To avoid regulation, the big alcohol companies seek to influence governments across the globe to adopt alcohol policies that are favourable to their business interests. A common tactic is to misrepresent evidence on effective alcohol policies.

Is it too much to hope that society has moved on from the days when powerful commercial interests are able to 
deny the health science and delay measures which are subsequently proved to save lives? With 24 people in Scotland dying an alcohol-related death every week, the clock is ticking.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland