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Whisky lobby says minimum pricing breaks EU law

Doctors leaders say they are disappointed but not surprised by a challenge to the emerging minimum alcohol pricing policy.

The SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) announced last week that it was taking action in Europe and the UK against the Scottish government’s minimum pricing legislation.

The Scottish government wants to set a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol. The SWA believes the minimum pricing policy is misguided, will not tackle alcohol misuse, and will penalise responsible drinkers.

The SWA has told the European Commission that the policy breaches EU trade rules and would artificially distort trade in the alcoholic drinks market, contrary to EU law. The SWA has also applied for a judicial review of the policy through the Scottish courts.

Its moves are being backed by the European Spirits Organisation and the European wine body the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins.

BMA Scottish GPs committee deputy chair Alan McDevitt said the announcement was ‘disappointing but not entirely surprising’.

Call for cooperation

He said: ‘The SWA should be working with ministers to reduce excessive alcohol consumption.’

Dr McDevitt pointed to research published last week showing that one in four people admitted to intensive care units in Scotland had an alcohol problem.

He added: ‘There is an urgent need for action.'

A minimum price, as part of a wider strategy, could help bring an end to Scotland’s destructive drinking culture.’

The research involved a survey of all 24 Scottish intensive care units, carried out by the Scottish Intensive Care Audit Group. It was published online by the journal Anaesthesia.

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Cost of alcohol harm

The total cost of alcohol harm has been estimated as £20 billion in England, £680 million in Northern Ireland, £3.6 billion in Scotland and £1 billion in Wales.

These figures include more than £2 billion in healthcare costs.

What is the BMA doing?

ArrowWe are campaigning for a minimum price for alcohol and pressing the UK governments to:

Bullet pointIncrease and rationalise tax to ensure it is proportional to alcoholic content

Bullet pointReduce licensing hours

Bullet pointEnsure licensing legislation is strictly enforced

Bullet pointPrevent irresponsible marketing practices

Bullet pointImprove labelling, to include alcohol content and recommended daily guidelines

Bullet pointIntroduce a compulsory levy on the alcohol industry to fund an independent public health body to oversee alcohol-related research

Bullet pointReduce the legal limit for the level of alcohol permitted while driving from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml

Bullet pointEnsure the detection and management of alcohol misuse is an adequately funded and resourced component of primary and secondary care

Bullet pointIncrease and ring-fence funding for specialist alcohol treatment services

Bullet pointLobby for and support the WHO in developing and implementing a legally binding international treaty on alcohol control