Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Parliament must come together to renew and reinvigorate MUP

The Scottish Government have launched a consultation on their proposal to maintain and uprate minimum unit pricing (MUP) to 65p per unit, following the publication of their report on its effectiveness.

Since it was introduced in Scotland in 2018, MUP has been linked to an estimated 3% reduction in alcohol consumption, a 4.1% reduction in hospital admissions and a 13.4% reduction in deaths directly caused by alcohol.

However, a new report published today from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, University of Sheffield, has found that inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic have eroded the effectiveness of MUP. They believe an increase in the MUP level is now needed to maintain its positive impacts, and failing to link MUP to rising inflation will cost more lives in the future. 

Laura Mahon, deputy chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement: "In 2012 there was a broad consensus across the Parliament about the desperate need for bold action to address the scale of our alcohol problem in Scotland and recognition that minimum unit pricing (MUP) had to be a cornerstone of our approach. With the recent rise in alcohol deaths, and the impact of the pandemic we need the Scottish Parliament to come together once again to renew and reinvigorate MUP. It is not enough for MUP to be retained. Unless there is support to increase the price, the positive effects we’ve seen will be reversed, condemning hundreds more people to unnecessary suffering and loss. This is particularly true for people living in our most deprived communities, where we’ve seen the greatest benefits from MUP."

Colin Angus, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Health and Related Research, said, "We now have the evidence to demonstrate that MUP has worked to reduce alcohol harm, but high inflation means 50p per unit in 2023 is considerably less effective than 50p was when MUP was first introduced in Scotland five years ago. 

"Our new analysis suggests that alcohol consumption is 2.2 per cent higher than it would have been if the MUP level had risen in line with inflation since it was introduced."

He added: "Failing to link the MUP level to inflation means that the level would need to rise from 50p to 61p just to maintain the same effectiveness at reducing harm. Consideration should also be given to the effects of inflation in the future to ensure that the positive impacts of the policy are not eroded over time.

"Maintaining an effective MUP level is even more important since the pandemic, during which we saw an increase in the alcohol consumption of heavier drinkers and a corresponding rise in alcohol-specific deaths."

Wednesday 20 September