MUP has had ‘lasting impact’ on drinking levels 

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Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is having a lasting impact in reducing alcohol consumption in ‘some of the heaviest drinking households’, according to new research by the University of Newcastle published in Lancet Public Health.

The team looked at the alcohol purchases of more than 35,000 households across the UK, and found they had fallen by almost 8 per cent in Scotland following the introduction of MUP in 2018. 

The households that tended to buy the most alcohol were the likeliest to reduce their purchases in both Scotland and Wales – where MUP was introduced last year – researchers found. MUP’s impact was measured by using northern England as a control for Scotland and western England as a control for Wales. However, some high-purchasing households in the lowest income bracket had not reduced their purchasing levels, meaning they were now spending more on alcohol than before. A full evaluation of the impact of MUP will be published by NHS Health Scotland in 2023.

‘We can now see that the introduction of MUP in Wales at the beginning of March 2020 has had a similar impact to the one we saw in Scotland in 2018, and we hope to see a continued benefit,’ said study lead Professor Peter Anderson of Newcastle University. It was, however, ‘a concern’ that high-purchasing, lowest income households ‘did not adjust their buying habits, and their spending simply increased as a result of the MUP policy’, added co-author Professor Eileen Kaner. ‘This is something that we want to explore further so we can better understand the reasons behind this, as well as its impact.’

Alcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore.
Alcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore.

‘This is powerful real-world evidence of the success of minimum unit pricing as a harm reduction policy,’ said chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. 

‘Westminster has said time and time again that it is waiting for evidence from Scotland and Wales on minimum unit pricing. The evidence is here – it’s time for the government to introduce minimum unit pricing in England in order to save lives, cut crime and reduce pressure on our NHS and emergency services.’

Meanwhile, smoking killed around 8m people worldwide in 2019, according to another Lancet study, with the number of smokers now at a record high of 1.1bn people. The increase is being driven by population growth, it says, with almost 90 per cent of smokers becoming dependent before the age of 25.  

Researchers estimated the prevalence of smoking and its attributable disease burden in more than 200 countries from 1990 to 2019. Over the past three decades, more than 200m deaths have been caused by smoking, with the annual economic impact exceeding US$1tn, it says. While smoking prevalence had reduced worldwide, ten countries now accounted for two thirds of all global smokers, including China, India, Russia, Japan and Indonesia, with 341m smokers in China alone. 

Alcohol study here

Smoking study here