Warning over minimum pricing of alcohol

16 November 2011

Warning over minimum pricing of alcohol

Professor Betsy Thom with Dr Laura Williamson

Scottish government plans to introduce minimum pricing of alcohol fail to address the needs of those who need the most help, a leading academic has warned.

Dr Laura Williamson, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the Institute for Applied Health Research, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), fears price rises could leave the alcohol-addicted in a desperate position if sufficient support services are not put in place.

She said: “If minimum pricing helps ‘denormalise’ alcohol and changes our drinking culture, those who struggle with alcohol may find it easier to avoid drinking, but no one is really sure of that.

“The alcohol dependent often choose cheaper, high alcohol drinks that will be hit by minimum pricing, and it is not clear whether they will reduce or stop their drinking because prices go up, or if they will find other ways to access alcohol, such as theft, or turn to other substances.

“Unfortunately, as I have argued in Alcohol and Alcoholism, public policy has tended to overlook the alcohol dependent and as a result, the condition is poorly understood within society. Given that there is evidence that social networks and support are important for recovery from dependence, relying on minimum pricing on its own will be insufficient for the dependent.”

Professor of Health Policy at Middlesex University, Betsy Thom, author of Dealing With Drink : Alcohol and Social Policy; From Treatment to Management, who visited GCU to present one of an ongoing series of alcohol issues-related seminars, also greeted the plans with a degree of caution.

Professor Thom said: “We have to consider, for example, a situation where there is a heavy drinker in the family who might continue to do so, leaving fewer resources for the rest of the family. The situation will have to be carefully monitored across all social groups.”

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