In 2018, a regulation was introduced in Scotland that establishes a minimum sale price for alcoholic beverages, proportional to the amount of alcohol they contain. A study has analysed the health impact of this measure. According to the authors, alcohol-related mortality has decreased by 13% since then, especially among the most disadvantaged socio-economic classes. The results are published in the journal The Lancet.
It is good news that public health policies are being assessed. We have long been calling for regulatory and fiscal measures to achieve health gains in a number of areas, including food and alcoholic and sugar-sweetened beverages. The availability of new scientific evidence is a very positive thing, especially in a journal like the Lancet.
The article is of the quality that is essential in this type of evaluation. More could always be done - adding more follow-up time, having more areas of comparison, etc. - but I understand that the Lancet reviewers considered that it was sufficient and deserved to be published. Evidence such as this should be seen as contributing to the implementation of high-impact beneficial policies.
As was the case with an article on the Scottish smoking prevention regulation that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, these are articles that underpin the arguments to facilitate the implementation of similar measures in other countries or regions. I recall that we used this article in the Ministry of Health to support the - at the time likely - 2011 smoking prevention law that amended the 2005 law to make bars and restaurants smoke-free. Therefore, even considering the context and the authors' own acknowledged limitations, the article has health policy implications. The main novelty lies in the fact that it provides a quantification of the effects in terms of mortality.
In my opinion, the limitations have less to do with the research work than with the difficulties of contextualisation in each area. In Spain, the power of the alcohol lobby and the capture of institutions it has achieved are preventing progress in legislation to prevent alcohol-related morbidity and mortality. This is common to other toxic substances, as shown by the inaction of the Ministry of Health this legislature with tobacco and alcohol, despite the fact that the technical units have prepared actions.
- Research article
- Peer reviewed
- Observational study