- Drinks companies keeping consumers in dark about risky drinking
- Reducing alcohol consumption can address health inequalities
- Alcohol-specific deaths remain at very high levels
- Oh Lila goes digital
- Global first alcohol policy set to save hundreds of Scots' lives
- AFS welcomes minimum unit pricing for alcohol
- Walker's crisp ad exposes children to alcohol marketing
- Truer picture of alcohol harm revealed
- Focus on link between alcohol and obesity
- Alcohol causes 3,700 deaths in Scotland every year
- Last Christmas for heavily discounted alcohol
- Scotland's licensing system needs clearer direction
- Minimum pricing blog
- Minimum pricing gets green light
- Reflections on GAPC 2017
- Alcohol brands and young people
- Time for honest conversations about alcohol
- Q&A on alcohol marketing
- UK children anxious about parents' drinking
- Quarter of Scots drink above guidelines
- Alcohol producers failing to inform public
- Concern over alcohol-related deaths
- We need to make it easier for people to drink less
- Worrying rise in alcohol-related deaths
- Minimum pricing will save lives
- Pocket money prices for alcohol continue
- Scotland's alcohol problem laid bare
- Cheap alcohol is costing Scotland dear
- One drink a day can increase breast cancer risk
- Poverty linked to increased harm from alcohol
- What next for reducing alcohol harm in Scotland?
- Scotland must do more to turn tide of alcohol harm
- Concern as funding for alcohol services cut
- Budget: No change in alcohol duty
- Scottish Government urged to curb alcohol marketing
- Consumers have the right to know health risks
- Chancellor urged to tackle cheap, strong cider in Budget
- Online help for families affected by alcohol
- Alcohol-free childhood is healthiest option
- SWA granted leave to appeal minimum pricing
- Drink drive warning
- Scottish Greens call for action on alcohol marketing
- Scottish Government receives European alcohol award
- SWA will appeal to UK Supreme Court
- Half of alcohol being sold under 50p per unit
- SWA urged to respect minimum pricing decision
- Alcohol and mental health are closely linked
- Minimum pricing can be implemented in Scotland
- Alcohol sold at pocket money prices
- Scotland has so much to gain from reducing how much we drink
- AFS welcomes revised alcohol consumption guidelines
- Emergency services face shocking levels of alcohol abuse
- Every child has the right to grow up safe from alcohol harm
- Public health must prevail over big business
- New toolkit to help children affected by family alcohol problems
- Price check reveals cheap cost of strong alcohol
- Sales increase underlines need for minimum pricing
- Time to kick alcohol out of sport
- Alcohol linked with stomach cancer
- AFS calls for compulsory health warnings on alcoholic drinks
- Are supermarkets 'responsible retailers' when it comes to alcohol?
- Scottish health charities call for excise duty rise to tackle cheap alcohol
- Alcohol campaigners unite to call for stronger protection from alcohol advertising to children
- New resource for people concerned about alcohol in their community
- Minimum pricing decision delayed until summer
- No completely 'safe' level of drinking
- New alcohol guidelines published
- Minimum pricing - European court ruling
- Alcohol fuels ambulance assaults
- 82% of Scots agree drink driving is unacceptable
- Scotland's alcohol strategy - what next?
- Scotland leads way in evidence-based alcohol policy
- New report reveals impact of alcohol on emergency services
- Alcohol: a global concern
AFS welcomes minimum unit pricing for alcohol
The historic introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) of alcohol is just weeks away and will mark a significant turning point in Scotland’s damaging relationship with drink.
When this life-saving policy comes into effect on May 1, the positive impact on the nation’s health will be felt in a matter of months. In the first year alone, minimum pricing could prevent 60 alcohol-related deaths, 1,300 hospital admissions and 3,500 crimes, and those health and other benefits will build over time. It still shocks me that one in 15 of all deaths in Scotland can be directly attributed to alcohol.
A report in February by NHS Health Scotland showed alcohol causes 3,700 deaths in Scotland in a year, while more than 41,000 people were admitted to hospital in 2015 as a result of drink. We should use the very welcome implementation of MUP as a starting point for even more ambitious policies aimed at further tackling Scotland’s problematic relationship with alcohol.
The publication of the Scottish Government’s alcohol strategy due this spring provides us with an ideal opportunity to build on the world-leading development that is MUP and to stimulate a national conversation about how we change our relationship with alcohol, both individually and collectively.
Scotland's alcohol problem
Scotland clearly has a problem with alcohol. Consumption remains significantly higher than in the rest of the UK, with 17 per cent more alcohol sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales. Almost all of this was because of higher sales in supermarkets and off-licences where it is sold at the cheapest prices. The vast majority of Scotland’s alcohol is now brought from off-sales for consumption at home and alcohol is 60 per cent more affordable today than it was 30 years ago.
As well as contributing to ill health, harm from alcohol also affects others, including family members, friends, colleagues and the wider community. Half of Scots report being harmed as a result of someone else’s drinking and more than one in three report having heavy drinkers in their lives.
Children living with a drinker may experience a lack of care, support and protection or, in more severe cases, abuse and neglect. There is also a strong association between alcohol consumption and crime, especially crimes of violence. Increasing the price is one of the most cost-effective policy measures to reduce consumption and harm and one which Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) has long supported.
The World Health Organisation recommends MUP as an intervention to prevent and reduce diseases such as heart disease and cancer. We are the first country in the world to introduce MUP (although states in Canada have variants of it), but already Wales, the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Territories in Australia are following our lead.
Minimum pricing targets the most harmful drinkers because they buy most of the cheapest, strongest alcohol like white ciders and own-brand spirits. It is estimated that the heaviest drinkers in our poorest communities will spend around £88 less per year under a 50p minimum price. It is very unlikely they will move on to other substances, such as illegal drugs.
For people drinking heavily, even small reductions can have big health benefits. The impact on moderate drinkers, meanwhile, is minimal – it is estimated they will spend just an extra £2 per year. MUP will not only help those with chronic alcohol problems but will also stop people getting to that point in the first place. It will help prevent Scotland’s next generation of heavy drinkers.
Health Secretary Shona Robison last month set the minimum price per unit at 50p. That figure dated from 2012 when the legislation was passed and before legal challenges by the Scotch Whisky Association and others. It is worth pointing out those delays have cost around 400 lives. To build on the genuine difference MUP will make, AFS seeks a commitment from the Scottish Government to review the MUP within two years, to ensure the benefits are fully optimised.
Its introduction on May 1 is an important milestone and we hope it will also make people reflect on how alcohol is sold in Scotland. MUP does not signify the end of our campaign but marks the beginning of a proper national conversation.
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive