The slight overall decrease in the likely effects of the introduction of minimum pricing, as reported in the new Sheffield modelling study, should not be seen as a signal to dismiss this policy. Instead, we would urge politicians to focus on the findings in the context of health gains and lives saved.
A minimum price of, for example, 40p, would prevent 26 deaths in the first year, rising to 119 in year ten. The greatest number of lives saved would be among hazardous and harmful drinkers where more than 100 deaths would be prevented. About 640 hospital admissions would be avoided in the first year, rising to more than 2,200 (per annum) by year ten. And in the first year, the NHS would save about 2.8m; money the NHS needs to protect front-line services at a time when public sector spending faces serious cuts.
The most effective and evidence-based intervention to reduce consumption of alcohol is to tackle price and availability. Politicians have a central role in regulating the drinks industry and supermarkets to put an end to the ridiculous pricing of alcohol. By increasing price, we can reduce consumption and this, in turn, can prevent needless deaths.
(DR) BRIAN KEIGHLEY
Chairman, BMA Scotland
The revised Econometric study found alcohol price had increased by 2.5 to 4 per cent, depending on the type of alcohol, between 2008 and 2009. This means less alcohol is available for sale at low cost, so the effect of minimum price reduces. It is to be expected that the effects of an economic policy change as the economic environment changes.
The pattern of a rising cost of alcohol and falling consumption, together with early signs that some measures of harm are falling, provides further support for the view that low price and high rates of harm go together.
Pricing strategies that lead to across-the-board increases will produce some health benefit. However, price rises of the cheapest drinks have the most selective effect on the heaviest drinkers whose drinking causes greatest harm to themselves and others. This is why health professionals have supported minimum price as the preferred approach.
Politicians who don't favour minimum price need to say which other price mechanism they think would work better.
Chair, Royal College of Psychiatrists Scottish Division
Queen Street, Edinburgh