Minimum pricing would have 'little impact' on moderate drinkers

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

A minimum price of 45p would reduce consumption among 'harmful' drinkers, the study found
A minimum price of 45p would reduce consumption among 'harmful' drinkers, the study found

Related tags Alcoholism Uk

A minimum unit price of 45p would reduce alcohol consumption for harmfully heavy drinkers on low incomes by nearly 300 units annually, but have little impact on moderate drinkers, according to a new report published in medical journal The Lancet.

The report, which was funded by the UK Medical Research Council, assessed the effect of a £0.45 minimum alcohol unit price in the UK based on the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (SAPM) which showed the minimum price would lead to an immediate reduction in consumption for all drinkers.

Drinkers whose alcohol consumption level is categorised as harmful would see a reduction in consumption levels ranging from 138.2 units each year, equating to a 3.7% reduction in units consumed up to 299.8 units, or −7.6%, per drinker per year for heavy drinkers on the lowest income, with a decrease in spending of £34.63.

Moderate drinkers would be the least affected, consuming 3.8 fewer units per year, with little change in spending.

Health gains

Those on low incomes are currently those most likely to purchase alcohol below the minimum unit price so the change for heavy drinkers would be a reduction of £34.63 spent on alcohol. The Lancet​ report said: “Large reductions in consumption in this group would however coincide with substantial health gains in terms of morbidity and mortality related to reduced alcohol consumption.”

At present, the volume of alcohol bought at less than £0.45 per unit by moderate drinkers is 0.7 units per week while harmful drinkers on the lowest incomes purchase 30·8 units per week at less than the minimum unit price.

The report said: “The model estimates that harmful drinkers with the lowest incomes would reduce their consumption the most, while consumption in harmful drinkers with high incomes would also reduce. Notably, the estimated health benefits from the policy are also unequally distributed among socioeconomic groups.

“Most health gains occur in harmful drinkers in the poorest routine or manual worker groups, suggesting that the policy could contribute substantially to the reduction of health inequalities.”

The UK Government shelved plans to introduce minimum pricing last year. However, the Welsh Government is considering the policy and the Scottish Government is pressing ahead with plans, although the policy is being challenged in the European courts.


The SAPM analyses drinking habits across socioeconomic groups and purchasing preferences including the types and volumes of alcohol beverages, prices paid, and the balance between on-trade and off-trade.

The estimations were made on moderate, hazardous, and harmful drinkers, split into three socioeconomic groups (living in routine or manual households, intermediate households, and managerial or professional households).

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