The Effectiveness of Minimum Unit Pricing as a Strategy to Reduce Alcohol Consumption, Related Morbidity and Mortality
Alcohol is the leading risk factor amongst those aged 15 - 49 globally for premature mortality and disability. The World Health Organisation has urged governments to apply price increases and levies on alcohol in order to reduce harmful consumption of alcohol, which some countries have introduced through minimum unit pricing strategies. Minimum unit pricing is a form of public health policy aimed at reducing harmful levels of alcohol consumption in vulnerable populations. Other public health policies include those aimed at reducing obesity levels, and smoking. Alcohol consumption is linked to short term harms such as domestic violence, crime, and self-harm, while long term consumption is directly attributed to chronic illnesses such as liver disease and cancers. The aim of this research is to evaluate the strategies in place in Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and Northern Territory Australia, and to understand how each policy is applied through price, such as a minimum price per gram of alcohol. Using peer-reviewed research, the effects the implementation of these policies has had on alcohol consumption, alcohol related morbidity and mortality is evaluated to identify if minimum unit pricing is effective at reducing these harms. The level of research that has been conducted in to existing MUP policies and their effects is varied due to the recent implementation of some policies, such as Ireland’s in January 2022. There is limited evidence to support minimum unit pricing as a strategy to reduce alcohol consumption amongst heavy drinkers and those at increased risk of alcohol related morbidity and mortality, and the overall effectiveness of minimum unit pricing is not clearly defined, despite the implementation of these policies to reduce harmful levels of drinking. The implication of these findings are of relevance to stakeholders in the alcohol industry, governmental health departments, lobbyists, and policy makers.