New Publication from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group: Model-based appraisal of the comparative impact of Minimum Unit Pricing and taxation policies in Wales

Three quarters of all alcohol consumed in Wales is drunk by less than a quarter of the adult population who are hazardous or harmful drinkers and spend up to £2,882 per year on booze, research has revealed.

A report looking into the potential impact of minimum unit pricing and taxation policies in Wales was published Thursday 22nd February by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group at the University of Sheffield.

The publication, which found that the 3% of the population who are harmful drinkers, account for 27% of all alcohol consumed, comes after the Welsh Government announced a new Bill that, if agreed by the National Assembly, will introduce a minimum price for the sale of alcohol.

The Bill, which is designed to reduce hazardous and harmful drinking would make it an offence for alcohol to be supplied below that price.


Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething said: “People who drink alcohol at hazardous and harmful levels drink 75% of the alcohol consumed in Wales.

“The introduction of a minimum unit price would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption among these groups, as well as reducing the number of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalisations.”

The availability of cheap, strong alcohol is estimated to lead to 50,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions a year, costing the Welsh NHS £120 million annually and, in 2015, there were 463 alcohol-related deaths in Wales.

The report reveals the population of Wales buys 50% of its alcohol for less than 55p per unit, 37% for less than 50p per unit and 27% for less than 45p per unit, with heavier drinkers being more likely to buy alcohol sold below these thresholds.

Mr Gething said: “The report shows the greatest impact of a minimum unit price would be on the most deprived harmful drinkers, while moderate drinkers would experience only small impacts on their alcohol consumption and spending.

“This is because moderate drinkers tend to buy alcohol which would be subject to little or no increase in price under the policy.

“If passed, this law will potentially save lives.”

The research also shows harmful drinkers spend an average £2,882 a year on alcohol, or around £7.80 per day, compared to £1,209 for hazardous drinkers and £276 for moderate drinkers.

The Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, commissioned by the Welsh Government in June 2017 to update a 2014 appraisal of the likely impact of a range of minimum unit pricing policies, concluded a minimum unit price set at between 35p and 70p would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption among hazardous and, particularly, harmful drinkers.

Research highlights:

  • Moderate drinkers drink an average of 211 units of alcohol per year compared to 1,236 for hazardous drinkers and 3,924 for harmful drinkers.
  • Harmful drinkers spend an average £2,882 a year on alcohol compared to £1,209 for hazardous drinkers and £276 for moderate drinkers.
  • Alcohol-attributable deaths and hospital admissions are concentrated in hazardous and particularly harmful drinkers who are more deprived.

External news coverage:

75% of alcohol in Wales is drunk by just over a fifth of the population according to new report – ITV News

Minimum alcohol price help call for ‘hazardous’ drinkers – BBC News

75% of alcohol drunk in Wales consumed by 22% of the population, report says – Guernsey Press


New Systematic Review: Effectiveness of Mass Media Campaigns to Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Harm

This systematic review, published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, assessed the effectiveness of mass media messages to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms. Eight databases were searched along with reference lists of eligible studies. Studies of any design in any country were included, provided that they evaluated a mass media intervention targeting alcohol consumption or related behavioural, social cognitive or clinical outcomes. This was the first comprehensive systematic review of evidence of the effectiveness of mass media to reduce alcohol consumption, allowing those who make decisions about whether and how to develop and implement such campaigns to do so informed by a synthesis of the evidence base.
a&a1The search produced 10,212 results and 24 studies were included in the review. Most of the campaigns used TV or radio in combination with other media channels. There was little evidence of reduction in alcohol consumption associated with exposure to campaigns based on 13 studies which measured consumption, although most did not state this as a specific aim of the campaign. There were some increases in treatment seeking and information seeking and mixed evidence of changes in intentions, motivation, beliefs and attitudes about alcohol. Campaigns were associated with increases in knowledge about alcohol consumption, especially where levels had initially been low.The evidence suggests mass media health campaigns about alcohol can be recalled by individuals and can achieve changes in knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about alcohol, based mainly on weak quality studies. Findings of studies that measured alcohol consumption suggest campaigns have not reduced consumption, although most did not state that they directly aim to do so.

The finding that campaigns can be recalled suggests appropriate media channels, targeting strategies, durations and intensities have been utilized to reach target audiences. These campaign characteristics were not always reported by studies so it is not possible to draw a link between types of campaign strategies and levels of recall or exposure. Recall of tobacco mass media campaigns has been shown to be positively associated with smoking cessation (Jepson et al., 2007) so the outcome may be an important first step towards subsequent behaviour change in populations.

Most campaigns that aimed to improve knowledge were shown to be effective. This was particularly evident in areas where knowledge was initially low, for example, knowledge of unit consumption guidelines and of the link between alcohol and cancer. Mass media can yield sustained knowledge, which may lay the groundwork for reductions in consumption that are achieved using other public health measures.

There was evidence of increases in information seeking and treatment seeking. However, alcohol campaigns have not presented the simple call to action of tobacco messages (‘quit’) or provided offers of tangible help such as ‘quitlines’. Furthermore, as alcohol support services have historically been aimed at very heavy drinkers there may be a perception that current services do not cater for those who drink less. Mass media might therefore have limited utility in promoting service uptake.

Most studies found no impact on alcohol consumption, consistent with the conclusion of a previous review that there should be modest expectations of behaviour change from such campaigns (Snyder et al., 2004). Longer term evaluations conducted following sustained and repeated exposure to campaigns might be expected to be better able to detect effects on behaviour. However, the relationship between tobacco mass media campaign duration and effectiveness has been difficult to gauge due to confounding influences and trends over time (Durkin et al., 2012). The context in which alcohol health promotion campaigns operate is particularly challenging because of the ubiquity and power of alcohol marketing (de Bruijn et al., 2016) and pro-alcohol cultural norms (Gordon et al., 2012). This is another key difference to tobacco, where health campaigns in recent years have run in a context where most tobacco marketing has been banned or strictly regulated and social norms have become increasingly anti-smoking. The current review found evidence of impact on short term intermediate outcomes, suggesting mass media can play a supportive role for other actions which are more likely to have an impact on behaviour. These might include price-based measures (Babor et al., 2010), advertising restrictions (Siegfried et al., 2014), limiting availability and access to alcohol (Anderson et al., 2009) with the targeting of high risk groups (Foxcroft et al., 2015).

Alcohol and Alcoholism
Published: 10 January 2018

Presentations from the 2017 e-cigarette summit | November 2017

The 5th annual E-Cigarette Summit was held at the Royal Society in London on Friday 17th November 2017. Linda Bauld, Robert West and several other members of the UKCTAS network presented their research at the event to a large audience of other scientists, policy makers, medical and public health professionals and e-cigarette stakeholders. The presentations included the latest evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes for users and bystanders, usage in young people and non-smokers, advertising and marketing, use in public places and the conflicts arising from the tobacco industry’s dual corporate ownership of tobacco harm reduction products and cigarettes.

To view the slides from each presentation and the full list of videos click here.

Robert West (University College London) & Linda Bauld (University of Stirling):

Panel Discussion:

Lion Shahab (University College London) & Jamie Hartmann-Boyce (University of Oxford):

Deborah Arnott (ASH) & Martin Dockrell (Public Health England):

See more information about the event and view each of the lecture slides.


Upcoming Tobacco & Alcohol courses now taking applications: limited places available!


“Tobacco Control Interventions”
29th Jan – 2nd Feb 2018
University of Nottingham

Closing date for applications: 16th January 2018

This year we will be discussing important factors in tobacco control including; youth smoking, the role of the tobacco industry, use of mass media for smoking prevention and cessation, smokefree legislation, harm reduction and the neurobiology of nicotine addiction.


“Alcohol, Problems, Policy & Practice” 
5th – 9th February 2018
Kings College London

Early bird deadline: 21st December 2017

The course is a mixture of blended learning, with face-to-face lectures being held in February 2018. It is open to all UKCTAS researchers as well as students of the MSc in Addiction Studies.


“Nicotine and Tobacco CPD”
21st – 24th May 2018
University of Stirling

Early bird deadline: 28th February 2018

In addition to the topics covered on our previous tobacco control CPD, we will also be examining in detail the current evidence on tobacco harm reduction, electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices.

More information about these courses can be found on our website @

UKCTAS welcomes the ruling in favour of MUP! Minimum unit pricing will save lives, reduce hospital admissions and cut crime! #MUPsaveslives

In a landmark ruling, seven justices unanimously rejected a challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association that Scottish proposals for strict price controls were illegal under EU trade rules. The ruling comes after a five-year legal battle against the measures, which were passed by the Scottish parliament in 2012 but then fought by the Scotch Whiskey Association and two European wine and spirits industry bodies all the way to the European court of justice.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, first suggested the measure nine years ago while acting as the Scottish health secretary. The supreme court ruled on Wednesday 15th November that “minimum pricing is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Prof Petra Meier, director of the alcohol research group at the University of Sheffield, which published the data and evidence that Sturgeon’s proposals were based on, said a 50p minimum price would in time result in 120 fewer deaths and 2,000 fewer hospital admissions from alcohol abuse each year.

“Our research has consistently shown that minimum unit pricing would reduce alcohol-related health problems in Scotland by targeting the cheap, high-strength alcohol consumed by the heaviest and highest-risk drinkers. Moderate drinkers would be affected to a much smaller degree.”

They said protecting public health outweighed the damage to free trade which the spirits industry and EU wine producers said they wanted to protect. “The courts should not second-guess the value which a domestic legislator puts on health,” the judges stated.

With Welsh ministers and the Republic of Ireland introducing similar measures, health campaigners in England said the ruling left the Westminster government isolated, and removed the last legal barrier to minimum pricing.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:

“We are delighted with the Supreme Court’s judgement that minimum unit pricing is legal and can be implemented in Scotland. The decision today represents a great victory for the health of the public.

“Five years ago the legislation introducing MUP passed through the Scottish Parliament without opposition. It has taken five years to implement for the simple reason that the Scottish Whisky Association and others chose to challenge it in the courts. In that time many families have needlessly suffered the pain and heartache of losing a loved one.

“This decision has implications far beyond Scotland. Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are now clear to progress their own plans for minimum unit pricing.

“The spotlight should now fall on England, where cheap alcohol is also causing considerable damage.  Over 23,000 people in England die every year from alcohol-related causes, many of them coming from the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society. We urge the Westminster Government to act now and introduce the measure in England. A failure to do so will needlessly cost more lives.”

Scottish ministers are expected to introduce a minimum price of 50p a unit for alcoholic drinks by spring next year, in a bid to cope with increasing deaths and hospitalisations from alcohol abuse. Health campaigners say the strongest but cheapest ciders were so cheap in Scotland an adult could consume their maximum recommended weekly limit of alcohol – 14 units – for £2.52. The cheapest fortified wine came in at 27p per unit, while the cheapest vodka and gin was 38p. That rate will force up the price of all alcoholic drinks so that a standard bottle of whisky will cost £14, regardless of its wholesale cost, although the Scottish measures mean retailers will keep any surplus profits once prices rise.

The Welsh government has said it would press ahead with proposals it published last month to implement minimum pricing, with Welsh ministers also evaluating a 50p minimum price. Ministers in Northern Ireland have also backed the policy, but implementation has stalled after the collapse earlier this year of Stormont’s power-sharing administration. The Republic of Ireland is also considering similar measures.

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK, which includes the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs, is drafting a joint letter to the UK government formally urging ministers to reinstate plans for similar measures in England.

Urged on by the medical profession and some police commissioners, the UK government came close to following Scotland’s lead while David Cameron was prime minister, but after disputes in cabinet the proposal was dropped. The Home Office, which takes the lead on alcohol control policy, said it noted the supreme court’s ruling but said it would only keep the issue under review. A spokeswoman said ministers in London would watch its implementation in Scotland, but Home Office officials were unable to specify how long ministers would wait before reaching a decision.

The department said its focus now was on using other measures to control excessive alcohol consumption, including higher duties for high-strength ciders, and lower duty for lower strength wines. There were campaigns and initiatives by NHS England to support problem drinkers. The SWA acknowledged defeat, and said it would help ministers implement the strategy. But it warned that imposing strict price controls would increase the risk of other countries using the policy as justification for higher tariffs on Scotch whisky imports, damaging its £5bn-a-year export trade.

The brewing trade was split: major brewers, such as the makers of Tennents lager and Magners cider, with higher cost brands and a significant stake in supplying pubs, welcomed the court’s decision. The real-ale campaign group Camra denounced it, saying it “penalises moderate and responsible drinkers while doing little to support those who have issues with alcohol abuse”.

Dr Eric Carlin, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, a campaigning body backed by the medical profession, lambasted drinks companies for their “ferocious, cynical” opposition to the measure.

“The opponents to MUP have shamed the reputation of their industry by prioritising profits over people’s lives. As MUP has been delayed, we have seen the tragic, premature deaths of 24 people every week in Scotland as a result of alcohol misuse, many of them in our poorest communities, and affecting families across our nation,” he said.

Twitter posts about the decision:

News reports on the decision:

UK supreme court rules minimum alcohol pricing is legal – The Guardian

Minimum alcohol pricing: How will new policy affect you? – STV

Campaigners urge minimum alcohol price in England after Scottish ruling – The Guardian

Minimum alcohol pricing is a chance to tackle a problem which is ruining Scotland’s health – The Scottish Sun

Green light for minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland – PharmaTimes

Scots get set for ‘booze cruises’ into England as Supreme Court clears the way for minimum alcohol prices – Daily Mail

Full coverage of the decision on!

Report conducted at the University of Sheffield provides ‘clear and compelling’ new evidence on the effectiveness of minimum unit pricing.

Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

alcoholThe report, published by the Foundation for Liver Research, predicts that 32,475 of the deaths – the equivalent of 35 a day – will be the result of liver cancer and another 22,519 from alcoholic liver disease.

In its new report, Financial case for action on liver disease, endorsed by the independent Lancet Commission on Liver Disease, the Foundation for Liver Research urges the Government to implement a suite of policy measures designed to mitigate the rising health and financial burden of alcohol, including the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP), re-institution of alcohol duty escalator and advertising restrictions.

  • Between 2017 and 2022 the total cost to the NHS of alcohol-related illness and deaths will be £17 billion.
  • Study shows introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol could significantly reduce the burden.

Providing evidence in support of Government intervention, new modelling shows that within five years of its introduction in England, a 50p MUP alone would result in:

  • ian gilmore quote21,150 fewer alcohol-related deaths
  • 74,500 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions
  • Savings of £325.7m in healthcare costs
  • Savings of £710.9m in crime costs

The total financial savings to the public purse of MUP is forecast to be £1.1 billion – the equivalent cost of the Government’s recently announced investment package for Northern Ireland.

Colin Angus, Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield and part of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group who conducted the research, said:

“These new findings show there will be 35 deaths and 2,300 hospital admissions due to alcohol every day in England over the next five years. We estimate this will cost the NHS £17 billion at a time when healthcare resources are already overstretched. Our research also shows that policies such as Minimum Unit Pricing have the potential to significantly reduce this burden.”

Liver disease is one of Britain’s biggest killers, claiming about 12,000 lives a year in England alone. The number of deaths associated with it has risen by 400% since 1970. It is estimated that 62,000 years of working life are lost every year as a result of it. People who develop serious liver problems also suffer some of the worst health outcomes in western Europe.

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Prof Linda Bauld on E-cigarette use during pregnancy at GFN 2017

Global Forum on Nicotine 2017 – ‘Reducing Harm, Saving Lives’

E-cigarette use during pregnancy – What do we know?

At the June Global Forum on Nicotine event Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Stirling and Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, presented an update on e-cigarette use during pregnancy. In the presentation Linda highlights the latest research, a brief overview of smoking in pregnancy and why pregnant women who are still smoking should be encouraged to switch to e-cigarettes.

External link for video: E-cigarette use during pregnancy – Professor Linda Bauld

Other links:

Smokefree action’s info-graphic on e-cigarettes in pregnancy

To see other presentations from the conference click here.

Latest press release from UKCTAS:

Vaping may help explain the record fall in UK smoking rates