Government got it wrong on minimum unit price for alcohol

When the government included measures to address the problems caused by the wide availability of cheap alcohol in its National Alcohol Strategy back in March 2012, the north east had more reasons than most to celebrate.

However, it seems that our celebrations were premature.

Last month the government made it clear that minimum unit price (MUP) will not be introduced any time soon, and multi-buy offers such as three bottles of wine for the price of two will be allowed to stay.

This decision comes at a time when the evidence in support of MUP is getting stronger.

We know it targets those people most in need – heavy drinkers and children who seek out strong, cheap alcohol.

We know it saves lives, reduces hospital admissions and cuts crime while not affecting the price of a pint or glass of wine in a pub.

Now we know it works in practice. Research indicates that in British Columbia in Canada a ten per cent increase in minimum price results in a 32 per cent fall in wholly attributable deaths from alcohol.

In contrast, the below cost ban introduced by the government is 50 times less effective than MUP, and it will still be possible for our children to get their hands on a two-litre bottle of strong cider for £1.43.

Put together with the recent decision not to introduce standardised packaging on cigarettes – which also leaves our children at risk – the government’s delay in introducing MUP represents a blow to public health.

We welcome Public Health England’s commitment to look again at the evidence base because we believe it can only come to one conclusion – that unlike banning sales at below cost price, minimum unit price will make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable people in the north east.

Sue Milner

Director of Public Health

Northumberland Care Trust

Amanda Healy

South Tyneside Council

Anna Lynch

Durham County Council

Carole Wood

Gateshead Council

Dawn Scott

Newcastle City Council

Edward Kunonga

Middlesbrough Council

Julia Weldon

Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council

Louise Wallace

Hartlepool Borough Council

Marietta Evans

North Tyneside Council

Miriam Davidson

Darlington Borough Council

Nonnie Crawford

Sunderland City Council

Peter Kelly

Stockton Borough Council