Effective alcohol policies

Alcohol policy refers to a range of measures formulated and implemented by government and other public authorities that are designed to prevent, ameliorate, or treat the health and social problems associated with alcohol use.

The scientific study of alcohol policy over several decades tells us which interventions are likely to be successful in reducing alcohol-related harm, and which will have limited if any impact.

Most effective

A World Health Organization review of 32 alcohol strategies and interventions found that the most effective alcohol policies include:

  • alcohol control measures (price & availability)
  • drink-driving laws
  • brief interventions for “risky” and harmful drinkers.

In September 2018, WHO launched its new SAFER initiative, which is backed by a range of partners including the United Nations and the Scottish Government. SAFER is a package of five evidence-based, high impact strategies which WHO recommends governments should prioritise to tackle alcohol-related harm.

  • Strengthen restrictions on alcohol availability.
  • Advance and enforce drink driving countermeasures.
  • Facilitate access to screening, brief interventions, and treatment.
  • Enforce bans or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotion.
  • Raise prices on alcohol through excise taxes and pricing policies.

Least effective

At the other end of the spectrum, the policies that it was difficult to find a direct positive effect for on drinking patterns or problems include:

  • education in schools
  • public service announcements
  • voluntary regulation by the alcohol industry

SHAAP's Policy Recommendations

SHAAP’s Top Twenty – A Manifesto for Action on Alcohol 2016 (update coming soon)