Health minister says pricing won't cure UK's drink problem

18 December, 2011

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has rejected the idea of using minimum pricing as a way of curbing problem drinking.

He said a 50p unit price would effectively hand £600 million to the drinks industry in extra revenue, without solving the issues that medics say it would address.

“It is more likely to have a bigger proportionate impact on responsible drinkers who happen to be low-income households,” Lansley told the Independent on Sunday.

He also said the case for minimum pricing was too simplistic, because alcohol abuse varied in different parts of the UK despite pricing being similar across the country.

“We have got lots of women in the north east who are fetching up in critical units with chronic alcohol abuse and liver disease on a regular basis – far more than in Hampshire,” he said.

“There are disparities that are nothing to do with price. We need to be realistic about what it is we are trying to address, which isn’t simply if you raise the price all our problems will go away.

“The question is, what is the relationship between price changes and alcohol misuse? Because alcohol consumption and alcohol misuse are not on a straight line to each other.”

Lansley’s words follow a warning earlier this week from economic secretary to the Treasury, Chloe Smith, who said that minimum pricing was likely to breach EU law.

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