drunkHealth campaigners in the UK have welcommed a new report published in Canada which shows a strong link between the introduction of minimum pricing and a significant drop in alcohol-related deaths.

Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) said it was further evidence that minimum pricing will be effective. Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive, said: "This is important evidence which shows that minimum pricing is saving lives in Canada and will save lives in Scotland.

"Increasing the price of the cheapest alcohol through minimum pricing has the biggest effect on drinkers, especially young drinkers, who are most at risk of alcohol-related illness and death."

The Scottish government's plans to introduce a minimum unit price of 50p are currently on hold until the conclusion of a challenge brought at the Court of Session in Edinburgh by the

Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and several European wine and spirits bodies who claim it would breach EU trade rules.

However, the findings from the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research show a rise in alcohol prices of 10% between 2002 and 2009 led to a 32% reduction in alcohol-related deaths.

The authors suggest increasing the price of cheaper drinks reduces the consumption of younger drinkers who prefer them. Study lead Dr Tim Stockwell said: "This study adds to the scientific evidence that the majority of drinkers, heavy or recreational, young or old, reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase.

"It is hard otherwise to explain the significant changes in alcohol-related deaths observed in British Columbia."

However, the findings have been criticised as "misleading and inaccurate" by the drinks industry, which has questioned the statistical basis of the research. Wine and Spirits Association chief executive Miles Beale said: "There is not a simple link between alcohol price and harm.

"Consumption is more likely to be related to cultural factors and that the increase in price does not impact on these significantly. The industry is committed to tackling problem drinking and its consequences, but minimum unit pricing will not do that."

This is the first study to highlight the effects on mortality of alcohol minimum pricing, although the Scottish government has used previous research from the University of Sheffield to claim consumption of alcohol would be reduced if prices rose.

A consultation in England and Wales for a 45p minimum unit price ended on 6 February and similar plans are being considered by the Northern Ireland government.

Posted 07/02/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com