Minimum pricing: influence, politics and… waiting

  • Post category:World News

Since the Queen’s speech failed to confirm whether Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) truly has has been ditched, the jostling, debate and politics surrounding the issue goes on.

From Alcohol Policy UK

In particular, the question over industry influence over alcohol policy has been under the media spotlight. Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, who has been a outspoken supporter of MUP, accused Cameron of caving in to lobbyists last month. Similar concerns held by many minimum pricing supporters were summarised in an article by the Institute of Alcohol Studies‘ Katherine Brown in ‘The red-faced ranters have won’.

The issue also gained attention following a recent study on Industry Use of Evidence to Influence Alcohol Policy. The research suggested that industry submissions to the Scottish Government’s 2008 consultation included deliberately mis-representative and unsubstantiated claims – replicating past ‘big tobacco’ industry tactics. See here for a Guardian analysis of the research and a critical take of it on Phil Mellows’ blog.

Cheap booze3The Guardian and other papers have continued to take a keen interest in alcohol stories. Dr Kieran Moriarty, alcohol lead for the British Society of Gastroenterology argues Alcohol is killing too many of us. Moriarity argues for minimum pricing given headline alcohol statistics, including the falling average age of serious alcohol conditions and rising admissions.

The Information Daily published a piece questioning whether without minimum pricing, Is this Government’s alcohol strategy the worst yet?. The piece suggests that asides of its commitment to a likely 45 pence MUP, the strategy was not highly regarded by the health field. With a rhetoric of ‘binge drinking’ and ‘drunks’, it had little space for outlining important health and treatment interventions, let alone any commitment to advancing their implementation. A coalition of health groups subsequently published an ‘independent alcohol strategy‘ as an alternative model.

On the counter-side, Miles Beales of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) re-iterated the common anti-MUP arguments in Why should responsible drinkers pay more?. Beales suggests that building on approaches like Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAPs) and alcohol education are whats needed. A message that appears to remain effective with many of the public still opposed – see a recent exploration of public opinion on plain cigarette packaging Vs MUP from the Mentor blog.

For the meantime, it sounds rather like England’s minimum pricing will be going down as one of the Coalition’s U-turns; the last words from the Prime Minister on the matter was that a ‘package of measures’ was to be brought forward to address cheap alcohol. Meanwhile in Scotland, an EU legal battle continues as industry opponents continue to try and stop, or at least further delay it. So perhaps the ‘anti-MUP camp’ have won England’s MUP battle for now, or perhaps there is just more political sense in waiting to see what happens north of the border.