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BMA lobbies Europe on alcohol pricing

The BMA wants the EU to support minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland, saying it would send a message of support to states considering similar moves.

BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson stresses the clear need to take stronger action on alcohol in a letter to EC (European Commission) vice-president Antonio Tajani.

She insists that the scale of consumption in the UK and Europe is associated with significant medical, psychological and social harm, and is placing an unsustainable burden on healthcare services.

Dr Nathanson maintains: ‘The Scottish proposals to introduce minimum pricing provide an ideal opportunity for the EC to demonstrate its commitment to improving the health of European citizens.’

The UK has formally notified the EC, as per EU legislation, that Scotland is introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

But the BMA is aware that a considerable number of alcohol producers have been lobbying against this price regulation, and several EU countries have claimed that the law could infringe rules of free trade.

Consistent evidence

Dr Nathanson points out there is strong, consistent evidence suggesting that increasing the price of alcohol reduces its consumption and alcohol-related harm.

She cites research indicating the 50 pence per unit minimum price proposed by the Scottish government would save 60 lives in the first year of implementation, rising to 300 per year after a decade.

Dr Nathanson calls on the EU to support Scotland in taking forward its ‘bold action’, and says: ‘This will also provide a clear signal of support to other member states who are considering the need for a minimum price per unit.’

• The World Medical Association has given strong support to countries seeking to set a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Dr Nathanson told the association’s general assembly meeting in Thailand last week about Scotland’s plans — and the industry-backed challenges. She said the right of a state to introduce a public health policy was at stake.