Alcohol stance 'may please voters, but not doctors'

Alcoholic drinks Pub drinking is becoming less common

Minimum pricing for alcohol had always seemed an odd fit. In opposition, neither the Tories nor the Lib Dems had been that vocal in calling for it.

In fact, Andrew Lansley, who was the health secretary for the first two years of this government, was opposed to it.

However, slowly but surely it began to gather momentum. First, a 40p threshold was put forward and then - at the end of last year - 45p was proposed and consulted on.

That would have been ground-breaking. Along with Scotland, England looked set to become one of a very select band of countries to try to tackle problem drinking in this way.

Research has suggested a 45p minimum could reduce drinking by 4.3%, potentially saving 2,000 lives within a decade. This was why the idea had such strong backing from the medical experts.

More consumption

Drinking levels are considerably higher than they were 40 years ago.


Consumption may have tailed off in the last few years but alcohol intake is still 40% above what it was in the early 1970s.

A quarter of adults now drink to excess, causing more than one million hospital admissions and nearly 9,000 deaths a year.

Where we are drinking has also changed. Whereas four decades ago nine in 10 drinks were consumed in pubs and restaurants, today the split is almost 50:50 between in and out-of-home boozing.

This has undoubtedly been fuelled by the availability of cheap alcohol in the shops - the very thing minimum pricing is aimed at.

James Nichols, of Alcohol Research UK, says: "Specialists across the world agree that price is a key mechanism for tackling alcohol-related harms, especially among the heaviest drinkers.

"If the government decides to abandon minimum pricing it will have to explain how it will have to address the problem of very cheap alcohol."

But using cost is a crude tool. As well as hitting problem drinkers, it would also influence those who consume alcohol in moderation. Dropping the plan may win ministers votes - but it won't make them popular with doctors and health campaigners.

Nick Triggle Article written by Nick Triggle Nick Triggle Health correspondent

Failing hospitals: Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is certainly happy with the progress being made by failing hospitals put in special measures. But should he be?

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick

Features & Analysis

  • Stained glass of man with swordFrance 1 England 0

    The most important battle you have probably never heard of

  • Golden retriever10 things

    Dogs get jealous, and nine more nuggets from the week's news

  • Pro-Israel demonstrators shout slogans while protesting in Berlin - 25 July 2014Holocaust guilt

    Gaza conflict leaves Germans confused over who to support

  • The emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-SabahFreedoms fear

    Growing concern for rights as Kuwait revokes citizenships

BBC Future


How to learn while you sleep

Enhance memory with your eyes shut


  • A robot which is due to compete in the 2014 RoboCupClick Watch

    Why robots from 45 countries are playing football in Brazil, plus other technology news

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.