Advocates and opponents in the minimum unit pricing debate
The level of alcohol-related harm in the UK in general, and Scotland in particular, is high and is a major contributor to socio-economic inequalities. It is also increasingly acknowledged to be a global problem, being responsible for over 2.2 million deaths every year. The over consumption of alcohol is associated with a multitude of health problems including an increased risk of liver disease, heart disease, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, some cancers and accidental injuries. Its impact extends beyond the individual, with adverse effects on families, communities and the wider economy. Systematic reviews consistently confirm that there is a link between alcohol price, consumption and harm, and in the UK, the cost of alcohol has not risen in line with the rise in disposable income, making alcohol more affordable. The evidence suggests that restrictions on affordability offer some of the most effective strategies to reduce alcohol consumption and its associated harm.
The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill set out to introduce a minimum price below which a unit of alcohol must not be sold on licensed premises. The bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament in May 2012, but legal challenges from the Scotch Whisky Association have prevented its implementation thus far.
In this newspaper analysis we investigate how the UK newsprint media have framed the evidence on minimum alcohol pricing policy to the public (2006-2010). This work contributes towards identifying any misconceptions and facilitating improved communication with the public when advocating for population-level alcohol interventions. Findings from this work have been disseminated to policymakers and key people working in the alcohol prevention field ahead of the implementation of the policy.
Katikireddi SV, Hilton S. How did policy actors use mass media to influence the Scottish alcohol minimum unit pricing debate? Comparative analysis of newspapers, evidence submissions and interviews. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy 2015;22:125-134open access
Patterson C, Katikireddi SV, Wood K, Hilton S. Representations of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in UK newspapers: a case study of a public health policy debate. Journal of Public Health 2015;37:40-9open access
Hilton S, Wood K, Patterson C, Katikireddi SV. Implications for alcohol minimum unit pricing advocacy: what can we learn for public health from UK newsprint coverage of key claim-makers in the policy debate?. Social Science & Medicine 2014;102:157–164open access
Wood K, Patterson C, Katikireddi SV, Hilton S. Harms to ‘others’ from alcohol consumption in the minimum unit pricing policy debate: a qualitative content analysis of UK newspapers (2005-2012). Addiction 2014;109:578–584pubmed