About Minimum Pricing Policies

Key points

  • Low alcohol prices tend to lead people to buy and drink more alcohol.
  • Excessive alcohol use can increase your risk of getting ill, injured, or even dying sooner.
  • Small increases in alcohol prices could save lives.
A person is presenting information to colleagues about how a small increase to the price of cheap alcohol could save lives.


  • One of the most effective ways to reduce alcohol-related illness, injury, and deaths is with proven policies that increase alcohol prices.
  • When alcohol costs more, people tend to buy and drink less of it.
  • By raising alcohol prices, we can improve everyone's health, safety, and well-being.

Policies that affect alcohol prices

Alcohol tax policies

In the United States, alcohol taxes are the most common policy used to adjust the price of alcohol.

One type of tax, an excise tax, is based on the amount of alcohol sold. But these taxes haven't been changed to keep up with inflation. This means that alcoholic products have become cheaper compared to other items over the last 30 years.

Alcohol minimum pricing policies

Minimum pricing policies can be used along with alcohol taxes to adjust alcohol prices.

Minimum pricing policies set the lowest prices that retailers can sell alcohol at. This leads to small increases in the prices of the cheapest alcohol.

Did you know?‎

Using minimum pricing policies to make small price increases to the cheapest alcohol products could reduce how much alcohol people drink and save lives.

How setting a minimum price for alcohol works

There are two main types of alcohol minimum pricing policies:

  • Minimum unit pricing sets prices per standard drink of alcohol.
  • Minimum pricing sets prices based on a specific container size of a specific type of alcohol, such as a liter of beer or a liter of liquor.

How it works

Excessive alcohol use increases the risk of alcohol-related illness, injury, and death. When the price of alcohol goes up, people usually buy and drink less alcohol. When people drink less alcohol, they have a lower risk of:

  • Being hospitalized.
  • Harming themselves or others.
  • Developing or dying from alcohol-related conditions.

Study spotlight

One study looked at what would happen if the the price of the cheapest liquors sold in the state of Michigan were increased. It showed that raising the price of the cheapest liquors by 13 cents per standard drink in just one state could save hundreds of lives.1

The study1 found that this price increase could lead to:

  • A 4% decrease in how much people drink in the state.
  • About 350 (or 8%) fewer deaths from alcohol use in a year.
Infographic showing coins flowing out of an alcohol bottle. Human figures in background. Text reads “small price increases to the cheapest alcohol could reduce how much alcohol people buy and drink. This could save lives.”
Adding a small amount to the price per drink of the cheapest alcohol could lower alcohol-related deaths.

Use of minimum pricing policies

Alcohol minimum pricing policies are used more often in other countries than in the United States. Parts of Europe and Canada use these policies and have shown they are effective in reducing alcohol-related illness and deaths.

Minimum pricing policies are not common in the United States. But some states, such as Oregon, are beginning to use them.


  1. Bertin L, Leung G, Bohm MK, et al. Estimating the effects of hypothetical alcohol minimum unit pricing policies on alcohol use and deaths: A state example. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2024;85(1):120–132. https://doi.org/10.15288/jsad.22-00274