Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Public Health Scotland evaluation supports continuation of MUP

Today (Tuesday 27th June 2023) Scotland’s national public health body Public Health Scotland (PHS) has reported that they are “confident that MUP is an effective mechanism to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland” and they “support the continuation of MUP beyond April 2024.”

The final report on the independent evaluation of the impact of minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in Scotland shows that MUP has had a positive impact on health outcomes, including addressing alcohol-related health inequalities.

Public Health Scotland have brought together all of the relevant evidence since the policy was introduced in 2018. Lead for the evaluation of MUP, Clare Beeston, explained that there have been reductions in deaths and hospital admissions caused by “sustained, high levels of consumption”, stating that this was further evidence “that those drinking at harmful and hazardous levels have reduced their consumption.”

MUP alone was never going to be enough to address the specific and complex needs of those with alcohol dependence. Ms Beeston highlighted the importance of continuing “to provide services and any wider support that addresses the root cause of their dependence.”

She concluded by saying that “Overall, the evidence shows that MUP has had a positive impact on improving health outcomes, including alcohol-related health inequalities, and can play a part in addressing the preventable harm that affect far too many people, families and communities.”

Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science, Public Health Scotland has cemented PHS’s support for the policy following the robust evaluation by saying that “Public Health Scotland is confident that MUP is an effective mechanism to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland and we support the continuation of MUP beyond April 2024.”

Welcoming the findings of the evaluation, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said “Minimum price has saved and improved hundreds of lives in Scotland. That is the clear message from the final evaluation by Public Health Scotland. It shows the Scottish Parliament was right to pass this world-first legislation back in 2012. And the Scottish Government was right to face down opposition from the alcohol industry who consistently put their profits above public health.

MUP has not only worked, it has out-performed expectations. The policy was anticipated to save 80 lives a year by year three, but the evaluation shows it has saved more than 250 lives a year, with people in our poorest communities benefiting the most.

“Now we know that minimum unit pricing is truly life-saving, the policy must be continued, and the price increased. To scrap it now or leave it at a level that will quickly lose its effect would condemn hundreds of people to unnecessary suffering.

“Alcohol Focus Scotland and 29 charities and medical organisations have called on the Scottish Government to uprate the minimum unit price to at least 65p per unit. We hope the Parliament will come together again as it did in 2012, to optimise this policy, improve the nation’s health and reduce the burden on our NHS.”

Tom Bennett, who is in long-term abstinent recovery from an alcohol problem, and is Rights in Recovery Development Officer at Scottish Recovery Consortium said, “Minimum unit pricing has saved more lives than anyone reasonably expected. Fewer families have been grieving the loss of their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.

“Given we're in the middle of an alcohol-induced public health emergency, we should be wholeheartedly supporting the permanent implementation of MUP and uplift to at least 65p. People in recovery want to see Scottish Government act responsibly and support this, and wider measures, to protect Scotland's health from alcohol harms.”

Dr David McCartney, addictions specialist said, “In alcohol treatment services, we regularly see the devastating effects of dependent drinking on individuals, their families and on communities. Sadly we see too many deaths, many of which are preventable. We need every tool in the box to tackle this and MUP particularly is demonstrating its impact on reducing harms, particularly for those most at risk. I am wholly behind Alcohol Focus Scotland’s call to update the unit price to at least 65p per unit and look forward to the Government’s response to the PHS evaluation.”

Dr Joy Tomlinson, Director of Public Health said, “It is hugely encouraging to see the lives saved and hospital admissions averted as a result of minimum unit pricing.  Prevention policies play a vital part in keeping people in Scotland healthy, underpinning our health service. Each person that has not needed to be admitted to hospital alleviates pressure on the NHS and other services. As well as ensuring that people who need treatment and support receive it, we must prioritise prevention to stop people reaching this point in the first place, and this evaluation proves the life-saving impact of MUP.“