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Balance calls on Government to follow Scotland on MUP

Joanne Good

Mum Joanne Good is backing Balance's campaign

Posted 15/11/17

Balance today called on the Westminster Government to follow Scotland and end the supply of cheap alcohol which is harming health, fuelling disorder, and damaging the pub trade. 
 
It comes after a judgement by the UK Supreme Court that minimum unit pricing (MUP) is legal and can be implemented in Scotland following a challenge by the alcohol industry. This means raising the prices of the cheapest alcohol products which cause most harm, while leaving the price of most drinks, including those served in bars and restaurants, unchanged. The judgement could now help pave the way for the introduction of this life saving policy around the rest of the UK.
 
Alcohol is 60% more affordable than it was in 1980 [1], and strong alcohol products are being sold for pocket money prices up and down the UK. In England over the last decade, alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased by 64%, and the number of people diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer has gone up by 8% [2].
 
Supermarket own-brand vodkas and high-strength ciders are typically the cheapest on offer. Legislation for MUP was passed by the Scottish Government in 2012, but implementation was delayed as a result of a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.
 
The latest survey from Balance shows 54% of adults in the region support MUP with less than 1 in 5 (19%) opposing.  And a national survey of pub managers has also found that a large majority (83%) believe that supermarket alcohol is too cheap [3].
 
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “Just like Scotland was the first in the UK to introduce smokefree law, it is now taking an important step for the health of its people on alcohol. The implementation of MUP has been delayed for five years because certain sections of the alcohol industry were determined to pursue their own commercial interests. The decision today represents a great victory not just for the health of the public but also for democracy. 
 
“This now paves the way for this policy to be introduced in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who have all committed to it. It is vital that the UK Government now follows suit, so that England does not get left behind the rest of the UK.
 
“The cheaper alcohol is, the more we suffer through ill health, crime and disorder and the more it drains NHS and police resources. Our rates of harm in the North East are often closer to Scotland than England.
 
“Minimum unit pricing will save lives, reduce hospital admissions and cut crime. What’s more, most of those lives saved will come from the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society. Here in the North East, where we have the worst rates of alcohol related hospital admissions and alcohol related deaths, we have the most to gain.”
 
A North Tyneside mother who tragically lost her daughter after she drank strong white cider at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party is also backing calls for action in England following today’s momentous decision in Scotland.
 
Dudley based Joanne Good’s 16-year-old daughter Megan Craig-Wilkinson passed away on New Year’s Day 2014 after drinking 1.5 litres of cheap white cider at a New Year’s Eve party. Joanne is campaigning for the introduction of a minimum unit price to tackle the harms of strong, cheap alcohol products. 
 
Joanne Good, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of minimum unit pricing on alcohol in Scotland.
 
“By raising the price of cheap alcohol products, this landmark decision will help both young people and vulnerable people and encourage them to make better choices. 
 
“I lost my beautiful daughter Megan after a New Year’s Eve house party where she had drunk cheap white cider so I have experienced first-hand the tragedy cheap alcohol can bring about. 
 
“We’ve been campaigning hard in the hope that it will bring about change and another family will be saved from having to go through what we have been through. 
 
“We now urgently need the UK Government to follow Scotland’s example and introduce a minimum unit price here in England too. It makes total sense – the cheapest alcohol is causing the most harm and minimum unit price targets the cheapest drinks.”
 
The UK Supreme Court today ruled that minimum unit pricing for alcohol, which was passed overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, can now proceed.
Following the unequivocal backing of the highest court in Scotland – and a referral to the European Court of Justice – the UK Supreme Court today now dismissed an appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association and others, ruling that the proposed minimum unit pricing policy is appropriately targeted, lawful and proportionate, and is justified to protect human life and health. 
 
The Facts.
 
Sales figures show enough alcohol is being sold in the North East for drinkers to consume 22.3 units per week on average compared to the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance which recommends no more than 14 units.  
 
Of the nine English regions the North East has the highest rates of both alcohol-related mortality and alcohol-related hospital admissions. The most recent data shows that the regional rates are significantly higher than the national by 21% and 23% for mortality and admissions respectively.
 
In 2015/16 alcohol was estimated to have cost the North East:
• £209 million in NHS and healthcare for services such as hospital admissions, A&E attendances, ambulance callouts and also treatment for alcohol dependency.
• £331 million in crime and disorder, including 55,300 cases of criminal damage, 154,900 cases of theft and 20,000 cases of violence against the person. 
• £353 million lost to local businesses and employers through absenteeism, lost productivity and alcohol related deaths, including 548,400 days off and 8,249 potential years of working life lost due to alcohol related deaths.
• £121 million in costs to children and adults’ social services and substance misuse services.
 
 
[1] NHS Digital (2017). Statistics on Alcohol. Available at http://www.content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB23940/alc-eng-2017-rep.pdf
[2] Local Alcohol Profiles for England: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/local-alcohol-profiles
[3] Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) report, Pubs Quizzed: What Publicans Think About Policy, Public Health