Reducing harm caused by alcohol

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Lowest alcohol sales in Scotland for 26 years

Public Health Scotland have published the latest data on alcohol consumption, price, and harms in Scotland as part of the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) work programme.

The findings highlight that alcohol sales fell to their lowest level since 1994, to 9.4 litres per adult in 2020. This is the equivalent to an average consumption of 18 units per adult per week, which is still exceeding the recommended weekly low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units. The volume of pure alcohol sold in Scotland was 6% higher than in England and Wales, the smallest difference seen between the two areas.

Alcohol continues to be a leading cause of illness and early death in Scotland, and significant inequalities persist in both alcohol consumption and the harm it causes. For those that exceed the low risk weekly drinking guideline, mean weekly consumption is highest amongst those in the lowest income group. In 2019, there were 1,020 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland, with rates substantially higher in more deprived areas.

In response to the report, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “We’re really pleased to see that as a nation we are drinking less 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. 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 Scotland is greater than in England and Wales. But given nearly a quarter of Scots are still regularly drinking over the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines, we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball where preventing alcohol harm is concerned.

“We need to make sure we’re getting the most out of minimum unit pricing. The Scottish Government should increase the minimum price to at least 65p per unit. Setting it at this level will make good the effects of inflation over the nine years since the policy was approved by the Scottish Parliament.  More importantly it 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’.

17 June 2021