Reducing harm caused by alcohol


New PHS report: MUP and alcohol sales

A new report from Public Health Scotland published earlier today, 22 November 2022, highlights the impact of minimum unit pricing on alcohol sales.

Carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, this study shows a net reduction in total per-adult sales of alcohol of three percent in the three years following the implementation of MUP. This reflects a 1.1% fall in Scotland in contrast to a 2.4% increase in England and Wales. The net reduction in total alcohol sales was driven by a reduction in per-adult sales of alcohol through the off-trade (supermarkets and other shops), with no observed impact to sales through the on-trade (restaurants and bars).

This work builds on an earlier report which demonstrated a similar fall in off-trade alcohol sales in the first 12 months following the implementation of MUP. This latest work strengthens these findings by demonstrating that initial fall in alcohol sales was maintained throughout the three years following the introduction of the legislation in Scotland. The methods used, such as including adjustment for a geographical control and for COVID-19 associated restrictions, provide confidence that the reduction in sales demonstrated are a result of the implementation of MUP.

In response to the study, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said “This new study from Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow is good news and shows minimum unit pricing is working. It confirms that following the introduction of the policy we drank less and shows this reduction has been maintained since May 2018. Specifically, we have been buying less from shops and supermarkets, where 85% of all alcohol is now sold.

“Now that we know the policy has reduced consumption in Scotland, the Scottish Government must optimise its impact to save and improve more lives. This is even more crucial given the significant increase in alcohol-specific deaths of 22% over the last two years, likely due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on patterns of drinking.

“We also need restrictions on the aggressive marketing of alcohol and to reduce how easily available it is in our communities. This must be combined with further investment in support and treatment services to ensure anyone who needs help can access the right support when they need it.”

Lucie Giles, Public Health Intelligence Principal at PHS, said:

“The latest data shows a reduction in per-adult sales of pure alcohol in Scotland at the same time an increase in England and Wales was observed. We found net reductions in per-adult sales of cider, perry, spirits and beer, and net increases in per-adult sales of fortified wine and wine. Taken together, the overall impact of MUP on total per-adult alcohol sales in Scotland was a 3% net reduction, driven by a reduction in off-trade sales. We found little evidence to suggest that MUP caused any changes in per-adult sales of alcohol through the on-trade, suggesting that MUP did not cause a substantial shift towards alcohol consumption in pubs.

“Our main finding was consistent across a range of different conditions as tested through our additional analyses. We can conclude that, across Scotland as a whole, MUP has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption in the first three years of implementation.”