Scotland: Shops Sell Less Alcohol since MUP

Shops in Scotland report they sell less alcohol since minimum unit pricing (MUP), according to a new NHS study.

According to NHS research, in the one year of MUP implementation the volume of pure alcohol sold in shops fell by 3.6%, from 7.4 to 7.1 litres per adult. This is equivalent to 26 units of alcohol or 12 pints of beer annually. 

In neighboring England and Wales, where MUP is not implemented, the amount of alcohol sold increased 3.2%, from 6.3 to 6.5 litres per adult.

Scotland was the first country to implement the progressive MUP laws. MUP in Scotland was a result of a hard won fight with Big Alcohol. This law introduced a minimum price of 50 pence per unit of pure alcohol content for all alcoholic beverages.

The reductions in different types of alcohol show the beverages that had the highest price increases also saw the biggest reduction in consumption since MUP.

  • Sale of cider fell by 18.6%, reflecting a price increase from 13p to 56p per unit;
  • Sale of spirits fell by 3.8%, reflecting a price increase of 6p per unit;
  • Sale of wine fell by 3%, prices were increased from 14p to 61p per unit;
  • Sale of beer fell by 1.1%, reflecting price increase of 6p per unit;
  • The only alcoholic beverage sales which increased were for fortified wine (16.4% increase) which had no price increase and remained at 60p per unit.

Looking into the possibility of cross-border trade resulting from MUP, it was found that this was already happening even before MUP was introduced. The Scottish government is exploring different ways of measuring whether cross-border purchases of alcohol have increased due to MUP and are currently monitoring illegal cross-border sales.

MUP reduces alcohol harm

A previous BMJ study found that MUP was reducing alcohol consumption beyond expectations. Modelling based on a 3.5% reduction of per capita alcohol consumption predicted MUP would save 2,036 alcohol-related deaths and 38,859 alcohol-related hospital admissions. However, the BMJ research found MUP has coincided with a 7.6% reduction of consumption – 2.2 times what was estimated. Meaning alcohol related death and disease will probably decrease more than twice the amount as expected. 

Scotland: MUP Cuts Alcohol Use Substantially

Now, the new research data confirms alcohol consumption has reduced over the first year that MUP was in place.

This is a promising first full year of data, following our world-leading action to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP),” said Joe FitzPatrick, Public Health Minister of Scotland, as per The Telegraph.

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,” he added.

The Minister’s opinion was reiterated by the Chairman of the British Medical Association.

Minimum unit pricing is still in its infancy – we are not even two years into the policy – but already we seeing a change and that is extremely encouraging for its long-term strategy,” said Dr Lewis Morrison, Chairman of the British Medical Association, as per BBC.

Alcohol Focus Scotland, leading alcohol prevention organization in the country, reports other research has found that Scottish people are switching to lower strength alcohol and smaller portions. As the organization says even small reductions in alcohol consumption in Scotland – which currently has a high consumption rate – will reflect in lesser alcohol harm in the long-term and more lives saved.

Minister FitzPatrick has also urged the UK Government to bring in a 9pm watershed for alcohol adverts, or devolve the necessary power to Scotland, to further reduce alcohol harm in Scotland. This measure would help in reducing underage alcohol consumption in the country and safeguard minors from alcohol harm.

For further reading:

Scotland: Economic Impact of MUP

Sources: 

The Telegraph: “Alcohol sales fall in Scotland’s supermarkets following the introduction of minimum unit pricing

BBC: “Alcohol off-sales fall in first year of minimum pricing