Reducing harm caused by alcohol


First study published into under 18 drinkers post MUP

Research commisisoned by NHS Health Scotland found from interviews with young people under 18 years old who reported drinking alcohol that Minimum Unit Pricing did not impact on the their acquisition, consumption or related behaviours, either positively or negatively. Many of the products favoured by the young people were, on average, already being sold above 50 pence per unit before MUP was introduced.

The study found that money and price changes were not perceived to be barriers to drinking by the children and young people interviewed. The price of alcohol was not seen as an important factor in their drinking behaviour, and overall they did not report changing what they drank, how much they drank or how they obtained their alcohol, in response to price alone.

In response to the study Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “This study provides a unique - and concerning - insight into the lives of a group of teenage drinkers and shows that the cost of alcohol is only one factor in their alcohol consumption.

“The apparent ease with which these young people are able to acquire alcohol raises serious questions about enforcement of existing licensing legislation and age-verification arrangements which are there to protect young people.  It is also deeply worrying that adults are regularly providing under 18s with drink, despite the potential effects of alcohol on brain development and on young people’s wider mental and physical health.  Parents and carers need to be made aware of the risks and the Chief Medical Officer’s advice not to drink alcohol before the age of 18. 

“The research also points to many of the products favoured by these young people as already costing more than 50p per unit, before MUP was introduced.  We also know that brands are important to children and young people whether we’re talking about clothes and trainers or indeed alcohol. More needs to be done to address the attractiveness of alcohol by controlling alcohol marketing. We hope that the upcoming consultation from the Scottish Government on restricting alcohol marketing will achieve this.”

The study investigated the impact of MUP on a group of fifty 13-17 year olds who reported drinking alcohol both before and after the implementation of MUP in Scotland in May 2018. Participants were asked about any changes in the price or availability of what they drink; any changes in their acquisition and consumption of alcohol; their experiences of harm after drinking; and what influences their drinking. The study was designed to help understand the lived experience of the young people who took part. It is not an assessment of the impact of MUP that is representative of all young people in Scotland.

Despite a limited awareness of the implementation of MUP, the young people interviewed report being largely price aware, and had observed changes in product price, and to a lesser extent changes in product availability.

Find out more and read the report on NHS Health Scotland's website.

The planned publication schedule for evaluation studies of minimum unit pricing (MUP), and other related studies is also available on the NHS Health Scotland website.