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02/05/2013

Minimum pricing will bring “substantial health and social benefits” says new IAS report

A new report published today by IAS summarises the latest evidence on minimum pricing and rebuts some common criticisms (often from vested interest groups) of the policy.

A new report, ‘Is alcohol too cheap in the UK? Setting the case for a Minimum Unit Price [MUP] for alcohol’ is published today by the Institute of Alcohol Studies.The paper, written by Dr Tim Stockwell and Dr Gerald Thomas, reviews the most recent evidence on MUP, whilst addressing common criticisms of the policy. The authors conclude that policymakers can be confident that substantial health and social benefits will follow if the measure is introduced in the UK.

Main findings of the report include:

  • In the UK, alcohol is 45% more affordable than in 1980, and both men and women can currently exceed the recommended low risk daily drinking guidelines for £1

  • Data from Canadian provinces suggest that a 10% increase in average minimum price would result in the region of an 8% reduction in consumption, a 9% reduction in hospital admissions and a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol caused deaths

  • Evidence shows minimum pricing targets the heaviest drinkers, whilst having minimal impact on the amount spent by moderate drinkers

  • Individuals and families on low incomes would be among the least affected by minimum pricing

  • Criticism of the research on minimum pricing from Canada and the University of Sheffield, much of it from commercial vested interest groups, has been inaccurate and misleading

The report suggests that the ‘real life’ evidence on the impact of minimum pricing in Canada indicates that the estimated effects on the UK may be far greater than predicted by modelling from the University of Sheffield.

Katherine Brown, IAS Director of Policy, said: “It is essential that the evidence to support minimum pricing is presented in an accurate and balanced way, so that decisions about adoption of this policy can be based on the interests of the common good.

“Recent reports funded by vested interest groups have been misleading and inaccurate in their criticisms of minimum pricing, highlighting the conflict of interest between economic objectives and public health and well being.

“This report provides an opportunity to set the record straight on minimum pricing, and give policymakers confidence that fulfilling the commitment to introduce this measure in the UK will deliver significant health and social benefits without unfairly penalizing moderate drinkers or those on low incomes.”

To read the report in full, please click here (pdf 590k).

Articles in the press: The Guardian:Canada is proof that state-controlled drinking is good for health (30.4.13).New research finds minimum alcohol prices in Canada save lives without harming the drinks industry