Minimum pricing dents Scotland’s alcohol consumption

Introducing a 50p minimum unit price in Scotland has reduced the amount of alcohol Scottish people purchase.

Researchers from Newcastle University found that, on average, Scots were purchasing 1.2 units of alcohol less per week than they were before minimum pricing (MUP) was introduced.

This equates to just over half a pint of beer or cider, or a small measure of spirits – and is about twice the impact expected.

Positive impact

The heaviest drinkers exhibited the greatest drop in the amount they bought, buying two units less than previously.

Minimum pricing was introduced to tackle Scotland’s alcohol problems, with almost 23,500 people admitted to hospital for alcohol related reasons in the year before MUP came into force.

Experts said the drop among the heaviest drinkers particularly meant MUP “has achieved its ambition to make relatively cheap and strong alcohol less affordable, which in turn should positively impact public health over time”.

While the research revealed a drop in alcohol purchases, the level of units bought was still above the recommended 14 per week limit.

Public health benefits

One of the limitations of the study was that it only considered alcohol bought in shops and off-licences, not restaurants, pubs or bars, where about a quarter of drinks are purchased.

However, lead author Peter Anderson said the findings indicate that MUP does what it was intended to do.

He said: “It reduces the amount of alcohol that people buy and will benefit the health of many people in Scotland, particularly those who drink the most and those with disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Wales is set to introduce MUP in 2020, and Anderson encouraged the rest of the UK to follow suit.

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