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Health experts prepare to take minimum unit price campaign to Brussels

The Scottish health professions are increasing their efforts to challenge the continued opposition by global alcohol producers to the implementation of Scotland’s Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) policy. On 5th September in Brussels, Scottish and European doctors will make the case for health alongside industry supporters of the policy, including C & C Group (producers of Tennents Lager) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.

Legislation to introduce a Minimum Unit Price of 50p was passed without opposition by the Scottish Parliament in May 2012. The legislation has yet to come into force because a consortium of global alcohol producers, fronted by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Spirits Europe and the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV) is fighting its implementation every step of the way. The fight is now in Europe where, in the latest stage of the legal battle, written opinions from EU member states may be made to the European Court, with the deadline for this being mid-October this year.

Dr Peter Rice, Chair of SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) said:

“Changes in the price of alcohol are a key determinant in rates of alcohol harm. This vitally important health policy will save Scottish lives and it needs to be implemented as a matter of urgency. In Canada, a 10% increase in average minimum price was associated with a 32% drop in alcohol death rates. MUP is within the competence of the Scottish Government to implement as an appropriate Public Health response to a Health crisis.

Eric Carlin, Director of SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) said:

"We need other member states and the Commission to support or at least not oppose the Scottish policy. MUP is opposed by a consortium of multi-national alcohol producers who, inaccurately, are framing this as a Health v Industry issue. Demonstrating the falseness of this claim, we have speakers from the Scottish alcohol industry who support this policy from an ethical position."

Paul Waterson, Chief Executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said:

"The SLTA is delighted to be involved in this very important seminar exploring Scotland’s innovative Alcohol Policies. We fully support the most inventive of these, Minimum Unit Pricing, and believe it to be a crucial element in trying to change Scotland’s uneasy relationship with alcohol."

Paul Bartlett, Marketing Director of C & C Group, said:

"We support minimum unit pricing in Scotland and across the island of Ireland because, as a local company, we understand the needs of the communities in which we play a part."

Dr Katrin Fjeldsted, President of the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) commented:

"Alongside the World Health Organisation, the CPME strongly advocates a “health in all policies” approach to prevent disease and improve health. This includes consideration of health effects in trade policies and this is the reason we have supported the Scottish efforts to introduce a Minimum Unit Price for alcohol in Scotland.

This is an opportunity for the European Union to support an innovative health improvement measure, designed for local circumstances, supported by the international evidence and to show that in Europe, health comes first."

This article is based on SHAAP's "Doctors take battle to implement "Scotland the Brave's" alcohol minimum unit price policy to Brussels" press release. For more information on the event taking place on 5 September 2014 exploring Scotland's innovative Alcohol Policies, please visit the SHAAP website.