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The cost of alcohol harm

Alcohol is causally related to more than 60 different medical conditions and, as it can make patients ill in a vast number of ways, it also impacts on doctors across the profession.

The total cost of alcohol harm has been estimated as:

  • £20 billion in England
  • £680 million in Northern Ireland
  • £3.6bn in Scotland
  • £1bn in Wales

These figures include more than £2bn in healthcare costs.


What the BMA is doing

The BMA is responding on a number of fronts. These include work on price, availability, marketing, public education and better funding for how alcohol is managed.

However after years of campaigning in all of these areas, it is on the issue of minimum pricing where there is currently the greatest hope of progress.

Read about the work BMA is doing on the following alcohol related issues:

Minimum unit pricing (MUP)

Drink driving legislation in Scotland

Alcohol and pregnancy


What influence does the EU have on UK alcohol policy?

Although the UK Government retains the power to legislate with regard to health policy, EU legislation supersedes UK law in a number of areas related to alcohol related harm. EU policy can also play a crucial role in the development of legislation and policy at national and devolved nation level.

For example, EU legislation determines how foodstuffs are labelled - including nutritional information - and advertised across Europe. Alcoholic drinks are currently exempt from this, however, the European Commission is working on a proposal which would include alcoholic beverages in the legislation.

The Scotch Whisky Association is currently leading a consortium of global alcohol producers, to prevent the introduction of the Scottish Government's minimum unit alcohol pricing legislation on the grounds that it breaches EU trade law and would impact negatively upon the European wine and spirits industry.

The European Court of Justice has ruled, that it is up to the Scottish courts to decide whether other measures - such as taxation - could protect human life and health as effectively as minimum unit pricing, while being less restrictive to trade.

Read more about the work of the BMA's European office


Watch a short video

Consultant hepatologist Nick Sheron on the ravaging health effects of alcohol use.


Further reading

Alcohol misuse: tackling the UK epidemic (2008)