Influencing international debate on alcohol pricing and policy

Government report on alcohol pricing

Our research into alcohol pricing is influencing policy globally and could help save lives worldwide.

Our School of Health and Related Research's (ScHARR) research into alcohol policy has influenced governments around the world.

We’ve found that a minimum price for a unit of alcohol could reduce deaths and hospital admissions among high risk drinkers and save billions of pounds - due to its effect on alcohol related health, crime and workplace problems.

Led by ScHARR’s Professor Petra Meier, we’ve developed the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model – a mathematical model providing estimates of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alcohol policies.

The work is influential in current debates around minimum unit pricing and the possible effects on different kinds of drinkers.

The model, which was developed by our Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, allows policymakers to estimate the effectiveness of alcohol pricing, availability and advertising policies as well as behavioural interventions.

The original model was built for the Department of Health and adaptations have been developed for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Northern Irish Governments and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. It has also influenced health policy debate in Australia, New Zealand and within the European Union.

Our findings have been published as government reports and in academic journals, such as the Lancet and British Medical Journal. Members of the team have also given evidence to the UK and Scottish parliaments and given briefings to the European Commission and World Health Organisation.

Using our model, we analysed a range of separate policy scenarios, including setting various minimum prices per unit of alcohol, a total discount ban in off-licences and supermarkets, and a combination of the two strategies. The research examined how policies affect alcohol purchasing, consumption and health risks for different population groups, including moderate, hazardous and harmful drinkers.

We found that introducing a 50p minimum unit price in England would lead to 15,000 fewer alcohol-related deaths and 480,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions over the first ten years of the policy. Our team also found that this pricing would lead to a £1.6bn saving over that period in direct costs to the health service and a £9.7bn saving across all other outcomes, for example crime.

Evidence from the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model has been a driving force in alcohol policy internationally and has directly impacted on policy decisions around minimum unit pricing in the UK and abroad.

Professor Petra Meier, Professor of Public Health

The UK government released its alcohol strategy in March 2012, and the headline measure was the commitment to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol in England and Wales.

Evidence from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group was also used by the Scottish Government when proposing the Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill, which was passed in May 2012 and paves the way for the introduction of an initial minimum price of 50 pence per unit in Scotland. In October 2016 the plans were backed by the Scottish courts.

The governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are also pushing ahead with plans to introduce minimum unit pricing using evidence from our model.

Professor Petra Meier said: "Evidence from the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model has been a driving force in alcohol policy internationally and has directly impacted on policy decisions around minimum unit pricing in the UK and abroad.

"We are continuing to produce evidence in new policy areas including alcohol taxation and are planning to adapt our model to examine the effects of tobacco policies and effects of alcohol on drinkers' families. We will also be expanding our focus to cover more countries, allowing us to compare policy effectiveness across different contexts."