Letter: Cut human cost of alcohol misuse

REPORTS that Tesco is now supporting the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol are a welcome contribution to the debate on how best to tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland ("Alcohol price fix hard to swallow", Business, 30 May). Tesco is joining the international consensus that minimum pricing is the most effective measure to increase the price of high alcohol products which are currently sold at rock bottom prices.

Last week expert advisers to the UK government, NICE, recommended minimumpricing as an essential part of a wider alcohol strategy, mirroring a similar pronouncement by the World Health Organisation last month and the findings of a House of Commons select committee which conducted an inquiry on alcohol misuse.

There is clear evidence to demonstrate that minimum pricing, along with a ban on alcohol promotions, will reduce overall consumption of alcohol and will have a greater impact on the heaviest drinkers who suffer the greatest health harms.

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Some critics of minimum pricing support a ban on below cost selling. However, analysis shows this measure will have little or no impact on levels of problem drinking linked to cheap alcohol. In fact, under this proposal, the price of products such as supermarket brand vodka and high strength white ciders could decrease further which will do nothing to reduce the alcohol related health harms that permeate all communities in Scotland.

For too long now, weak policies focusing on education and industry-led responsible drinking campaigns have failed to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-attributable deaths. It is time to take bold action.

As MSPs prepare to debate the Alcohol Bill this week, we would remind them that Scotland ranks eighth in the world for alcohol consumption and that alcohol related health harms account for one in 20 deaths in Scotland, costing the NHS more than 400 million. It is time to set aside political differences and focus instead on a strategy to reduce the human cost of alcohol misuse in Scotland.

Dr Brian Keighley, Chairman, BMA Scotland; Dr Bruce Ritson, Chairman, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems; Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland