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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
27 June 2023
Minimum unit pricing reduced alcohol-related deaths by 13 per cent, according to report

Minimum unit pricing was introduced in 2018 | Alamy

Minimum unit pricing reduced alcohol-related deaths by 13 per cent, according to report

A report published by Public Health Scotland has found that minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Scotland has directly reduced deaths caused by alcohol consumption by an estimated 13.4 per cent. 

The final report on the independent evaluation of MUP also found that hospital admissions have fallen by 4.1 per cent, while the largest reductions were seen in men and those living in the 40 per cent most deprived areas. 

The legislation, which was introduced in Scotland in 2018, places a minimum of 50p per unit of alcohol to try to reduce consumption in the heaviest drinkers, and accordingly retail sales, overall consumption has decreased by 3 per cent. This has been attributed in large part to the reduction in sales of cider and spirits through the off-trade (supermarkets and shops) – products which increased most in price. 

Public Health Scotland has said the greatest reductions were amongst households purchasing the most alcohol, with little impact on households purchasing at lower levels.  

However, for people with alcohol dependence, there was limited evidence of any reduction in consumption, and there is some evidence that those with dependence on low incomes have prioritised spending money on alcohol over food.  

While the impact on alcoholic producers and retailers varied depending on the products made or sold, there is no clear evidence of substantial negative impacts on the alcoholic drinks industry in Scotland as a whole. 

Clare Beeston, lead for the evaluation of MUP at Public Health Scotland said: “We have seen reductions in deaths and hospital admissions directly caused by sustained, high levels of alcohol consumption, and this is further evidence that those drinking at harmful and hazardous levels have reduced their consumption. MUP alone is not enough to address the specific and complex needs of those with alcohol dependence who will often prioritise alcohol over other needs, and it is important to continue to provide services and any wider support that addresses the root cause of their dependence.  

“Those living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas in Scotland experience alcohol-specific death rates at least five times greater than those living in the least deprived areas. Alcohol-related disorders are a leading contributor to health inequalities in Scotland.  

“Overall, the evidence shows that MUP has had a positive impact on improving health outcomes, including alcohol-related health inequalities, and can play a part in addressing the preventable harm that affects far too many people, families and communities.”  

Dr Nick Phin, director of public health science at Public Health Scotland said: “Public Health Scotland is committed to evidence-informed policy, and we are confident in the validity of the robust research published today. The evidence in our report is consistent with earlier research on minimum pricing elsewhere.  

“Public Health Scotland is confident that MUP is an effective mechanism to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland and we support the continuation of MUP beyond April 2024.” 

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