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Alcohol sales fall in first year of minimum unit pricing

PA

Alcohol sales fall in first year of minimum unit pricing

NHS Health Scotland research found that the volume of pure alcohol sold per person dropped in Scotland, while it increased in England and Wales over the same period.

The overall amount of alcohol sold in shops fell during the first year of minimum unit pricing, NHS Health Scotland has reported.

The analysis found that the volume of pure alcohol sold per person dropped in Scotland, while it increased in England and Wales over the same period.

There is no minimum unit pricing (MUP) policy in England and Wales.

The policy, which was implemented in Scotland in 2018, raised the price of cheap, high strength alcohol by setting a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

In Scotland the volume sold since the introduction per person fell by 3.6 per cent, from 7.4 to 7.1 litres.

In England and Wales it went up by 3.2 per cent, from 6.3 to 6.5 litres per person.

The type of alcohol that saw the biggest decline in sales was cider, which was the alcoholic drink that saw the biggest rise in its price following the introduction of MUP, falling 18.6 per cent.

But Buckfast-type fortified wine actually increased in sales. Its price was not affected by MUP and saw a 16.4 per cent increase in sales.

Sales of spirits fell by 3.8 per cent, wine by 3 per cent and beer by 1.1 per cent.

The Scottish Government welcomed the news as a sign that the policy is beginning to work.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “This is a promising first full year of data, following our world-leading action to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing.”

He went on: While the impact of reduced consumption will take a little longer to show, I remain convinced MUP is one of the main drivers in reducing alcohol harm.

“In particular, we want to go further to protect children and young people which is why I plan to consult on potential mandatory restrictions on alcohol marketing and advertising this year.  Scotland will be the first of the UK nations to do so. 

“I continue to urge the UK Government to protect children and young people from exposure to alcohol advertising on television, by implementing a 9pm watershed for all alcohol adverts.  If they remain unwilling to take this necessary preventative action, they should devolve powers so that the Scottish Parliament can act.”

Alcohol Focus Scotland described the research findings as “great news”.

Alison Douglas, the organisation’s chief executive, said: A reduction of 3.6% in alcohol consumption in the first 12 months following the introduction of MUP is great news for Scotland’s health. Particularly significant is the contrast to England and Wales, who don’t have MUP, where sales of alcohol have increased in the same time period.

“It’s encouraging to see that, as expected, consumers appear to be buying less cheap, high strength cider. Other research studies suggest that consumers are switching to smaller size packs and lower strength products.  Even a small reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed in Scotland will mean fewer lives damaged by or lost to drink.  

 “Increasing the price of alcohol is one of the most effective and cost-effective policy measures to reduce alcohol consumption and harm. Even with these promising results, due to inflation, the effectiveness of the 50p minimum unit price is likely to have declined in the seven years or so since the Parliament approved the legislation, so we’re pleased that the Scottish Government have committed to reviewing the price after the second anniversary to ensure the benefits are fully realised.”

“We must also recognise that one measure alone will not be sufficient; Scots are still drinking enough for every adult to exceed the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines by a third on every week of the year.  We need to build on minimum pricing with action to control how widely available and how heavily marketed alcohol is if we are to change Scotland’s relationship with drink for good.”

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