Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol - The Alcohol Health Alliance

Dear Mr Jones, I am writing on behalf of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) to request your support for the Government's plans to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol.

There are more than 8,700 alcohol related deaths and 1.2million hospital admissions every year in the UK, adding to the pressure on the NHS and frontline staff- not to mention the impact on our nation's health and wellbeing. The health benefits of introducing MUP are objectively evidenced both nationally and internationally. It is predicted the measure will prevent thousands of alcohol-attributable deaths and reduce hospital admissions by tens of thousands- as well as other benefits to society and reductions in crime.

The Government is in the final stages of making their decision on the introduction of MUP. The AHA would therefore be extremely grateful if you would write to the leader of the Labour Party and the Shadow Secretary of State for Health to express your support for the measure. The AHA would be very keen to meet with you to discuss this further and answer any questions you have about the introduction of minimum unit pricing.

I have enclosed a short brief below which provides further information on the harm caused by alcohol and the benefits the introduction of minimum unit pricing would bring.

Kind regards,

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore
Chair of Alcohol Health Alliance UK

Why Support a Minimum Unit Price for Alcohol

Alcohol Costs

Alcohol is estimated to cost our country more than £21bn each year due to its impact on health, crime and society.[1]

Alcohol is 45% more affordable than it was in 1980 while channels for its availability have multiplied far beyond the local pub, so that now the majority of alcohol is sold in the off-trade (such as in off licenses and supermarkets) [2]. This change in drinking habits has been coupled with a huge increase in rates of liver disease, alcohol related hospital admissions, crime and social disorder.

To address this, the Government intends to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol, as part of proposals announced in its Alcohol Strategy published in March 2012. Your support of these proposals is vital.

What you can do to help

• Ensure that decision makers are aware you support a policy that will protect people from alcohol harm
• Meet with Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) representatives to discuss the impacts and issues relating to MUP in more detail and discuss how you can support this important measure
• Write to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Health Secretary in support of MUP

Key Benefits of MUP

The introduction of a 50p MUP in England is expected to result in a 6.7% reduction in average alcohol consumption per drinker and, at full effect, it is predicted to[3]:

• Prevent more than 3,000 alcohol related deaths and 98,000 hospital admissions each year
• Reduce the number of alcohol-related crimes by more than 40,000 including 10,500 violent crimes per year
• Reduce the disparity between the cost of drink in pubs and supermarkets

In Canada, recently published research has shown that increasing alcohol prices by 10% on average was associated with a 32% reduction in alcohol-related deaths and a 22% fall in the consumption of higher strength beers.[4]

Who supports MUP?
A range of public sector organisations support MUP, including the medical profession, the police (the Association of Chief Police Officers), children's charities, and emergency services[5].

Several industry groups are also MUP supporters, including retailers (Tesco, Waitrose, National Federation of Retail Newsagents) and breweries (Molson Coors, Greene King). CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale supports MUP and according to a recent survey by the British Institute of Innkeeping, the majority of pub landlords are also in favour[6].

A Progressive and Targeted Policy to Reduce Harm for All

MUP allows cheap, high strength drinks to be targeted and therefore favours weaker alternatives. MUP therefore:
• Targets the problems caused by cheap, high-strength alcohol
• Does not adversely impact moderate drinkers who would spend an average of just 28p extra per week [7]
• Protects vitally important and socially responsible local pubs by addressing irresponsibly low prices in the off-trade where they have to compete with the very low prices of alcohol in the supermarkets

Unlike raises in alcohol duty levels, which affect all drinks regardless of where they are sold so is more likely to impact on pubs, MUP targets the price of the cheapest alcohol at point-of-sale. Prices in pubs are likely to be unaffected as most drinks sold in the on-trade are above a 50p MUP already.
Alcohol exacerbates health and social inequalities and despite the fact that people from low-income groups are less likely to drink, these groups experience greater levels of alcohol harm. The reductions in crime rates and improvements in health outcomes brought by MUP promise to benefit low income and vulnerable groups the most.
Crime and Disorder – Supporting Front Line Police Officers

Approximately half of all crime is alcohol-related[8]:

• Alcohol is linked to 40% of domestic violence cases
• Around half of all violent incidents take place at the weekend when binge drinking is most prevalent with 66% of stranger violence and wounding offences taking place between midnight and 6am
• One third of people will avoid going to their local high street on a Friday or Saturday night because of alcohol-related disorder.
• 40% of child protection cases and 74% of child mistreatment cases in the UK are alcohol related[9]

At full effect, a MUP of 50p is predicted to prevent more than 40,000 alcohol related crimes each year in England.[10]

Saving Lives and Improving Our Health

Each year there are more than 8,700 alcohol related deaths and 1.2million hospital admissions in the UK:
• Alcohol is linked to more than 60 health conditions
• Alcoholic liver disease admissions in the under 30s has increased by as much as 400% in some parts of the country between 2002/03 - 2011/12
• With a 65% increase in death rates from liver cirrhosis over the past 20 years, alcohol is the third leading behavioural risk factor for disease and death in the UK[11]
At full effect, a MUP of 50p is predicted to prevent more than 3,000 alcohol related deaths, 98,000 hospital admissions in England.[12]


About the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA)

The AHA is a group of 32 organisations whose mission is to reduce the damage caused to health by alcohol misuse. An additional 40 organisations support MUP. For more information visit www.rcp.ac/aha

How to contact us: For further information or to arrange a meeting with an AHA representative please contact Fiona Mawer on alcoholhealthalliance@gkstrategy.com or call 020 7340 1150.

________________________________________
[1] Government Alcohol Strategy 2012.
[2] Statistics on Alcohol: England 2012, NHS Information Centre
[3] Purshouse, R et al, 2009. Modelling to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of public health related strategies and interventions to reduce alcohol attributable harm in England using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model version 2.0. Report to the NICE Public Health Programme Development Group.
[4] Tim Stockwell, Jinhui Zhao, Norman Giesbrecht, Scott Macdonald, Gerald Thomas, and Ashley Wettlaufer. The Raising of Minimum Alcohol Prices in Saskatchewan, Canada: Impacts on Consumption and Implications for Public Health. American Journal of Public Health: December 2012, Vol. 102, No. 12, pp. e103-e110. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301094.
[5] Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK. University of Stirling
[6] Morning Advertiser,'Majority of publicans back plans for minimum pricing of alcohol', 30/08/2012 accessed at: http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/General-News/Majority-of-publicans-back-plans-for-minimum-pricing-of-alcohol
[7] Purshouse, R.C., Brennan, A., Latimer, N. et al (2009), op cit
[8] British Crime Survey 2009/10
[9] National Association for Children of Alcoholics
[10] Purshouse, R.C., Brennan, A., Latimer, N. et al (2009), op cit.
[11] Murray, C.J., Richards, M.A., Newton, J.N. et al (2013) UK health performance: findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet.
[12] Purshouse, R.C., Brennan, A., Latimer, N. et al (2009), op cit.

Copyright © 2013 Alcohol Health Alliance, All rights reserved.
The AHA is a group of 32 organisations whose mission is to reduce the damage caused to health by alcohol misuse. An additional 40 organisations support MUP. For more information visit www.rcp.ac/aha

Our mailing address is:
Alcohol Health Alliance
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London, Greater London SW1H 9BL
United Kingdom