The Scottish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Struan Stevenson (ECR) is convening today (Sept. 12) an event in Strasbourg to discuss the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) on alcohol approved by the Scottish Parliament in May (1), and its alleged potential impact on trade. The gathering appears to be an ’industry convention’ and therefore an unbalanced attempt to mislead participants on the legality of the proposal, diverting attention from the benefits that a MUP on alcohol will have on heavy drinkers and society as a whole.
Brussels, September 12 2012 - “Mr Stevenson’s opposition to minimum pricing appears to be based on the assumption that the Scottish MUP on alcohol discriminates against imported alcoholic drinks, most of which come from other EU Member States. This is simply incorrect. As this rule applies to all, local and imported, alcohol brands operating in Scotland, the scheme does not contravene any rules of the European Union (EU) Internal Market (2),”said Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of European Public Health Alliance (EPHA).
Today a small number of beer and distilled spirits companies dominate the global trade in alcohol, creating an unprecedented concentration of industry power. A strong alcohol lobby can distort the debate - at the expense of public health. Mr Stevenson’s decision to break ranks with his Scottish Conservative Party (which supports the legislation on minimum alcohol pricing) raises questions about the credibility of today’s debate.
According to the WHO, and based on three decades of scientific evidence (3), the social and health gains of raising alcohol price and availability are unequivocal, indisputable and massive: when the cost of alcohol goes down, people drink more and when it goes up, people drink less (4). Hazardous and harmful drinkers are impacted more than those who drink modestly, as they buy more alcohol and tend to choose cheaper options (5), like cut-price offers. The bill will also act as a deterrent for young people, making binge drinking behaviors more expensive to pick up and thus less likely to happen.
By targeting the cheapest alcohol drinks, which are often drunk by the most vulnerable groups in society (6), a minimum pricing scheme has the potential to help reduce the burden of disease and alcohol-related harm. “Pricing policies go a long way to reduce the harmful consequences that over-drinking have on drinkers as well as on others,” said Ms Kosińska. In addition to mitigating the way in which alcoholism strikes many households, it has been largely proven that MUP on alcohol reduces the incidence of crime and employment harm (7) as well as fatal traffic accidents, traffic injuries and liver cirrhosis (8).
“The Scottish have set the first legally-binding minimum price within the EU. I do hope that other EU governments are encouraged by this move and follow suit on a measure that, if applied across Europe, could save thousands of lives every year,” pointed out Ms Kosińska.
► Notes to editors
1) The Scottish Parliament approved the alcohol minimum pricing bill on 24th May this year. The Scottish legislation was notified to the Commission on late June and it has now to be put forward for inter-service consultation in the European Commission.
2) See joined Cases C-267/91 and 268/91 Keck  ECR I 6097, paragraph 16.
3) Briefing to NGO and Public Health Networks in the EU, Alcohol Focus Scotland - September 2012.
4) Briefing to NGO and Public Health Networks in the EU, Alcohol Focus Scotland - September 2012.
5) Model-Based Appraisal of Alcohol Minimum Pricing And Off-Licensed Trade Discount Bans In Scotland Using - The Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (V 2), January 2012.
6) Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill, Alcohol Focus Scotland – December 2011.
7) Sheffield report analyses effects of alcohol pricing and promotion policies - The University of Sheffield, December 2008.
8) Understanding the links between alcohol affordability, consumption and harms in the EU – RAND Europe, March 2009.
► Facts and figures
. Alcohol is the world’s number one risk factor for ill health and premature death among the 25-59 year old age group and Europe is the heaviest drinking region in the world (1)
► To know more
. EPHA Media Reaction - Scotland backs minimum alcohol price.
. The Scottish Government - Alcohol minimum pricing bill passed.
Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator- +32 2 233 38 76 or firstname.lastname@example.org