Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Recent reporting on alcohol sales data

Data on alcohol sales released from Nielsen’s Homescan Consumer Panel in the last couple of weeks has led to some reports suggesting MUP isn’t working. We’ve had a look at some of the data and arguments put forward.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that the data only covers three months, and any short-term data has its limitations. It can’t be relied on to show trends. We need long-term figures to show any significant impact.

It’s also been widely reported by the alcohol trade that they’ve had a bumper summer, with a scorching heatwave, the world cup and the royal wedding all driving drink sales, all of which make comparisons between this year and last problematic.

In fact, both Scotland and England saw a significant increase in volume sales over the summer, compared to the same period last year, however, interestingly the increase in England (7%) was almost double that of Scotland (4%).  So perhaps minimum unit pricing in Scotland is already having an impact.

But it is worth being aware that this data from Nielsen’s is based on natural volumes - how many litres of drinks, regardless of strength, are actually being purchased - and not the alcohol content.  Without information on the number of units of alcohol which are actually being sold it is difficult to understand what any of this is telling us about alcohol consumption.  To help address this problem Alcohol Focus Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to require licensed premises to provide information on sales as a condition of their licence.

The thorough independent evaluation of minimum unit price (MUP), which is currently underway, led by NHS Health Scotland, will provide a fuller assessment of its impact on health, crime and the economy. 

We are all keen to know the real impact of MUP but we will have to be patient for this to become clear.  In the meantime, there’s still every reason to expect that MUP will save hundreds of lives and improve thousands more.