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Liquor price work marks UK charity launch

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Findings by a Curtin professor have been used to mark the launch of a charity in the United Kingdom that aims to tackle problems created by alcohol misuse.

At the recent launch of Alcohol Research UK, the new charity released findings of a study it had commissioned from a team headed by Curtin health psychologist Martin Hagger.

The research revealed the views and misconceptions of the UK public regarding the impact of a ‘minimum pricing policy’ in combating alcohol-related harm.

Some experts have suggested that introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol would reduce excessive liquor consumption. Until now, there had been little in-depth investigation of the attitudes and beliefs of the public toward such a policy.

The qualitative research led by Professor Hagger found people were generally skeptical about minimum pricing but that many did not fully understand the policy and its implications.

Many participants did not see minimum pricing would target discounted alcohol sales, and equated it with other pricing strategies such as increases in duty.

Respondents also failed to recognise the public health significance of small population-level reductions in alcohol consumption, and were preoccupied with the effects for heavy and dependent drinkers.

When asked how minimum pricing might be made more palatable, participants suggested the money raised should be used to fund other interventions.

Many respondents said minimum pricing should be introduced as part of a wider package of government policies to address excessive drinking.

Professor Hagger said that, to be successful, any minimum pricing policy would need to address misconceptions highlighted by the research.

“As well as being skeptical about the effectiveness of a minimum pricing policy, many of those who took part in our research simply didn’t fully understand the policy and its implications,” he said.

“There are many ways in which the issue of alcohol-related harm could be tackled, but if the government chooses to implement a minimum pricing policy, our research suggests that it would be more acceptable to people if it were introduced as part of a wider package of measures to target excessive drinking.

“Policy makers must focus on communicating the policy clearly so that people understand its purpose.”

Professor Hagger is attached to Curtin’s School of Psychology and Speech Pathology.

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