Public Health Scotland figures show,
- In 2020 alcohol sold per adult fell to 9.4 liters from the previous 9.9 liters in 2019.
- This is a 26 year low since records began in 1994 and is the largest decrease so far.
- Scotland is closing the gap with neighboring England and Wales. In 2020, alcohol sales in Scotland were 6% higher than the two neighboring nations, which is the smallest difference recorded.
Minimum unit pricing policy success
We’re really pleased to see that as a nation we are [consuming] less [alcohol] for the third year running and that alcohol consumption is at a 25-year low – this is a good indication that minimum unit pricing is having the intended effect,” said Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, as per BBC News.
Although the restrictions on pubs and restaurants for much of 2020 will have affected consumption across the UK, it is notable that the reduction in alcohol purchases in Scotland is greater than in England and Wales.”Alison Douglas, chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland
As Movendi International previously reported, the Scottish MUP has been proven effective over the past two years. Most recent statistics released by the National Records for Scotland show that alcohol-specific deaths decreased by 10.2% from 2018 to 2019, since MUP introduction.
The evidence is also promising for MUP in Wales. Recent survey data show that Welsh people are consuming less alcohol as a result of the MUP policy.
A new Lancet study analyzed alcohol purchases of both Scotland and Wales. The study examined data from 35,242 British households providing detailed information on 1.24 million alcohol purchases in 2015–18 and the first half of 2020. The findings show:
- 7.7% decrease in household alcohol purchases in Scotland,
- 8.6% decrease in household alcohol purchases in Wales, and
- The reductions in purchases were largely from households which purchased the most alcohol.
Apart from the population level reductions in alcohol use, a recent study by the University of Sheffield found MUP had benefitted those who were dependent on alcohol as well. The study focused on people who are alcohol dependent and accessing treatment. The interim report of the study found:
- Over 60% noticed the price changes of alcohol in the months after MUP was implemented and two thirds of them reported alcohol was now much more expensive;
- Half of the participants reported seeking treatment for their alcohol dependency; and
- One in five reported reducing their alcohol use since MUP was implemented.
The study found one concerning result with some participants reducing spending for other items in order to buy alcohol products. However, overall evidence for negative consequences of the policy are very low.
These early findings support previous results from the evaluation of MUP in Scotland by showing that the policy has reduced the availability of cheap alcohol, which was often consumed by those at greatest risk of harm from their [alcohol use],” said Professor John Holmes, lead researcher of the University of Sheffield study, professor of alcohol policy at the university, as per Holyrood.Professor John Holmes, Professor of Alcohol Policy, University of Sheffield
Scotland’s Minister for Public Health is more than convinced that the alcohol floor price policy is one of the main drivers for the consistent decreases in alcohol use in the country.
We have already seen that alcohol sales were falling since the introduction of our world-leading Minimum Unit Pricing policy in 2018,” said Maree Todd, Scotland’s Minister for Public Health, as per BBC News.
We know that it will take longer for the full impact of reduced consumption to feed through into health-related statistics, but I am more convinced than ever that MUP is one of the main drivers in reducing alcohol harms.”Maree Todd, Minister for Public Health, Scotland
The way forward
While the MUP policy is showing promising results, there is more to be done in terms of reducing alcohol harm in Scotland.
Public Health Scotland data show in 2019,
- Almost a quarter (24%) of all adults reported heavy alcohol use.
- Alcohol caused 1,020 deaths or 20 deaths per week.
- Over the course of 2019-20, a total of 23,685 people were admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related diagnosis.
- Alcohol harm is still affecting the most deprived communities disproportionately. Rates for both alcohol-related hospital stays and deaths are eight times higher in the most deprived parts of Scotland compared to the least deprived areas.
Communities in Scotland have been calling to increase the MUP level from 50 pence to 65 pence for better public health gains. This would match the alcohol floor price to the inflation rate and ensure continued public health gains from MUP.
Moving forward, the next step in alcohol policy for Scotland is to strengthen the MUP policy to protect Scottish citizens – especially the most vulnerable – from alcohol harm.
Given nearly a quarter of Scots are still regularly [consuming alcohol] over the chief medical officers’ low-risk [alcohol use] guidelines, we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball where preventing alcohol harm is concerned.” said Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, as per BBC News.Alison Douglas, chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland
As Ms. Douglas pointed out, increasing the alcohol floor price from 50 pence to 65 pence will “increase the positive benefits of the policy by reducing consumption, saving more lives and preventing a new generation from developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol”.
For more in-depth information
Listen to our alcohol issues podcast (episode 18) discussing alcohol policy in Scotland with Alison Douglas
BBC News: “Scottish alcohol sales drop to lowest level in 26 years“
The National: “Scottish alcohol sales fall to 26-year low, but remain higher than England“
Holyrood: “People suffering from alcohol dependency cut back on other spending because of minimum pricing“