In 2013, the Department of Health, in conjunction with Northern Ireland, commissioned the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG) at the University of Sheffield to conduct a health impact assessment as part of the process of developing a legislative basis for minimum unit pricing. The health impact assessment studied the impact of different minimum prices on a range of areas such as health, crime and likely economic impact. It also compared minimum unit pricing to other pricing policies.
“Creating Customers" looks at the many ways alcohol producers find new ways and places to sell alcohol, and new people to sell it to – in the UK and around the world.
The report examines how alcohol is marketed to women (both as a calorie-laden indulgence and as an aid to weight loss), and to particular ethnic groups; and how big drinks companies are working to drive up consumption in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America where levels of drinking have traditionally been low. It also highlights how the industry undermines it own pledges to encourage the safe use of alcohol.
Whilst recognising that alcohol is a legitimate product, the report argues that the drinks industry’s business imperative to sell more alcohol means it is not well placed to advise us how to use it safely and healthily. It includes a series of recommendations for effective regulation of the alcohol industry and its marketing campaigns, and for ending the industry’s involvement formulating public policy and information on safe drinking.
Estimates from the Northern Ireland (NI) adaptation of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model-version 3 (SAPM3) suggest: Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) policies would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption, alcohol related harms (including alcohol-related deaths, hospitalisations, crimes and workplace absences) and the costs associated with those harms.
A study of liver patients by the University of Southampton shows that a Minimum Unit Price (MUP) policy for alcohol is exquisitely targeted towards the heaviest drinkers with cirrhosis. Published today in Clinical Medicine, the peer review journal for the Royal College of Physicians, the researchers studied the amount and type of alcohol drunk by 404 liver patients, and also asked patients how much they paid for alcohol. They found that patients with alcohol related cirrhosis were drinking on average the equivalent of four bottles of vodka each week, and were buying the cheapest booze they could find, paying around 33p per unit, irrespective of their income. In contrast low risk moderate drinkers were paying on average £1.10 per unit. If the UK government set a MUP at 50p, it wouldn’t affect pubs or bars and would have no impact on moderate drinkers; the average cost would be £4 per year and 90% would not be affected at all. The impact on heavy drinking liver patients would be at least 200 times higher.