Minimum unit pricing (MUP) led to a 3 per cent net reduction in alcohol sales in Scotland in the three years after its implementation, according to a report from Public Health Scotland (PHS) and Glasgow University.
The reduction was to off-trade sales, the report states, with ‘no observed impact’ to sales in pubs and restaurants.
The report follows PHS research that found the average price of alcohol in Scottish supermarkets rose by nearly 18 per cent after MUP was introduced in 2018, bringing it in line with the traditionally higher prices of convenience stores and hitting sales of own-brand spirits, strong ciders and multi-packs. The MUP level of 50p is currently under review, and the Scottish Government is also consulting on increasing the restrictions around alcohol marketing as well as reviewing its alcohol brief interventions programme.
Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland, however, are at their highest level for more than a decade, with a PHS report from earlier in the year finding that MUP was having little effect on dependent drinkers, some of whom were choosing to spend less on food and utilities and more on alcohol.
‘The latest data shows a reduction in per-adult sales of pure alcohol in Scotland at the same time as an increase in England and Wales was observed,’ said PHS public health intelligence principal Lucie Giles. ‘We found net reductions in per-adult sales of cider, perry, spirits and beer, and net increases in per-adult sales of fortified wine and wine. Taken together, the overall impact of MUP on total per-adult alcohol sales in Scotland was a 3 per cent net reduction, driven by a reduction in off-trade sales.’
Minimum unit pricing had been ‘effective’, added public health minister Maree Todd, a conclusion that took into account factors such as the impact of the pandemic, seasonal variations, household income and comparisons with England and Wales. ‘Minimum unit pricing is achieving what it set out to do – a reduction in sales overall with a focus on the cheap high-strength alcohol, which is often drunk by people drinking at harmful levels,’ she said. ‘Further studies on MUP, including a final evaluation report, which is due next year, will examine how MUP has impacted on alcohol harms.’
Meanwhile, a separate report from PHS has recorded a fall in the country’s rate of drug-related hospital stays. There were 12,474 drug-related hospital stays in Scotland in 2021-22, it says, with the rate of stays now 235 per 100,000 population, down for the second consecutive year from 283 per 100,000 in 2019-20. The highest rate was for opioids, at 106 per 100,000 population, which has also decreased for the second consecutive year from its peak of 141 per 100,000 population.
Evaluating the impact of minimum unit pricing (MUP) on sales-based alcohol consumption in Scotland at three years post-implementation, and Drug-related hospital statistics: Scotland 2021 to 2022 at www.publichealthscotland.scot