Alcohol minimum unit pricing (MUP) policies establish a floor price beneath which alcohol cannot be sold. The potential effectiveness of MUP policies for reducing alcohol-attributable deaths in the United States has not been quantitatively assessed. Therefore, this study estimated the effects of two hypothetical distilled spirits MUP policies on alcohol sales, consumption, and alcohol-attributable deaths in one state.
The International Model of Alcohol Harms and Policies tool was used to estimate the effects of two hypothetical MUP per standard drink policies (40-cent and 45-cent) pertaining to distilled spirits products at off-premises alcohol outlets in Michigan during 2020. Prevalence estimates on drinking patterns among Michigan adults were calculated by sex and age group. Prices per standard drink and sales of 9,747 spirits products were analyzed using National Alcohol Beverage Control Association data. Analyses accounted for other alcoholic beverage type sales using cross-price elasticities.
Increasing the MUP of the 3.5% of spirits with the lowest prices per standard drink to 40 cents could reduce total alcohol per capita consumption in Michigan by 2.6% and prevent 232 (5.3%) alcohol-attributable deaths annually. A 45-cent MUP would affect 8.0% of the spirits and reduce total alcohol per capita consumption by 3.9%, preventing 354 (8.1%) deaths.
Modestly increasing the prices of the lowest-priced spirits with an MUP policy in a single state could save hundreds of lives annually. This suggests that alcohol MUP policies could be an effective strategy for improving public health in the United States, consistent with the World Health Organization's recommendation.