- Survey shows Scots lockdown drinking rise caused by stress
- Australian ministers agree to visible pregnancy warning
- Alcohol Focus Scotland welcomes new WHO report on alcohol pricing
- Statistical analysis of off-trade alcohol sales in the year following MUP
- Alcohol Focus Scotland Review of statements of licensing policy 2018 to 2023
- Scotland needs to continue long-term focus on alcohol
- We need to continue long-term focus on alcohol
- Scots report changing drinking patterns during coronavirus lockdown
- Time to Blow the Whistle on Alcohol Sport Sponsorship
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- New evidence demonstrates that alcohol ads lead to youth drinking
- Alcohol sales fall in first year of MUP
- First study published into under 18 drinkers post MUP
- Commission on Alcohol Harm calls for evidence
- Two years on Are annual functions reports reaching their potential?
- We need to do more to protect our children and young people
- Alcohol related hospital admissions for 2018 to 2019
- Hitting the right note in training
- Minimum unit pricing update
- Scottish primary children call for action on alcohol
- New Alcohol Deaths Prevention Support Now Available from AFS
- Its time to tell us whats in our drinks
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- Making a bad impression - blog post
- Alcohol sales and MUP
- Alcohol-specific deaths 2018
- Five tips for upping the engagement factor
- Alcohol marketing and children debate in the Scottish Parliament
- Lowest alcohol sales in 25 years
- Research into fall in violence
- The Children's Parliament investigates an alcohol-free childhood
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- Minimum unit pricing one year on
- More about sales data
- A family of resources it is all about prevention, education and resilience
- AFS publish Review of Licensing Board Annual Functions Reports 2017-2018
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- No place for alcohol marketing in sport
- Five pitfalls to avoid in evaluating training
- Scotland publishes first UK guidelines for diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
- The Alcohol Framework 2018 Preventing Harm
- Scotlands new drug and alcohol strategy launched
- AFS welcome new alcohol strategy
- Recent reporting on alcohol sales data
- Cross-Party Group Improving Scotland's health: 2021 and beyond October 2018
- Diageo is failing to provide latest guidelines on their products
- Drinks companies keeping consumers in dark about risky drinking
- Reducing alcohol consumption can address health inequalities
- Alcohol-specific deaths remain at very high levels
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- Global first alcohol policy set to save hundreds of Scots' lives
- AFS welcomes minimum unit pricing for alcohol
- Walker's crisp ad exposes children to alcohol marketing
- Truer picture of alcohol harm revealed
- Focus on link between alcohol and obesity
- Alcohol causes 3,700 deaths in Scotland every year
- Last Christmas for heavily discounted alcohol
- Scotland's licensing system needs clearer direction
- Minimum pricing blog
- Minimum pricing gets green light
- Reflections on GAPC 2017
- Alcohol brands and young people
- Time for honest conversations about alcohol
- Q&A on alcohol marketing
- UK children anxious about parents' drinking
- Quarter of Scots drink above guidelines
- Alcohol producers failing to inform public
- Concern over alcohol-related deaths
- We need to make it easier for people to drink less
- Worrying rise in alcohol-related deaths
- Minimum pricing will save lives
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- Cheap alcohol is costing Scotland dear
- One drink a day can increase breast cancer risk
- Poverty linked to increased harm from alcohol
- What next for reducing alcohol harm in Scotland?
- Scotland must do more to turn tide of alcohol harm
- Concern as funding for alcohol services cut
- Budget: No change in alcohol duty
- Scottish Government urged to curb alcohol marketing
- Consumers have the right to know health risks
- Chancellor urged to tackle cheap, strong cider in Budget
- Online help for families affected by alcohol
- Alcohol-free childhood is healthiest option
- SWA granted leave to appeal minimum pricing
- Drink drive warning
- Scottish Greens call for action on alcohol marketing
- Scottish Government receives European alcohol award
- SWA will appeal to UK Supreme Court
- Half of alcohol being sold under 50p per unit
- SWA urged to respect minimum pricing decision
- Alcohol and mental health are closely linked
- Minimum pricing can be implemented in Scotland
- Alcohol sold at pocket money prices
- Scotland has so much to gain from reducing how much we drink
- AFS welcomes revised alcohol consumption guidelines
- Emergency services face shocking levels of alcohol abuse
- Every child has the right to grow up safe from alcohol harm
- Public health must prevail over big business
- New toolkit to help children affected by family alcohol problems
- Price check reveals cheap cost of strong alcohol
- Sales increase underlines need for minimum pricing
- Time to kick alcohol out of sport
- Alcohol linked with stomach cancer
- AFS calls for compulsory health warnings on alcoholic drinks
- Are supermarkets 'responsible retailers' when it comes to alcohol?
- Scottish health charities call for excise duty rise to tackle cheap alcohol
- Alcohol campaigners unite to call for stronger protection from alcohol advertising to children
- New resource for people concerned about alcohol in their community
- Minimum pricing decision delayed until summer
- No completely 'safe' level of drinking
- New alcohol guidelines published
- Minimum pricing - European court ruling
- Alcohol fuels ambulance assaults
- 82% of Scots agree drink driving is unacceptable
- Scotland's alcohol strategy - what next?
- Scotland leads way in evidence-based alcohol policy
- New report reveals impact of alcohol on emergency services
- Alcohol: a global concern
We need to continue long-term focus on alcohol
Among the many profound changes to our lives in 2020, the way in which we access and consume alcohol is also significantly changing. In recent weeks we have seen the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, rising sales of alcohol in supermarkets, off-licences and online show that many of us are drinking at home. Recent polling from Alcohol Focus Scotland and Alcohol Change UK has shown that it is those of us who were drinking more to begin with who have increased our intake during lockdown.
Scotland already had an alcohol problem. That’s why we took the bold step to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) two years ago, to improve our health and that of our children. While the full effect of minimum unit pricing won’t be seen for 20 years, we should be proud of this global first. The evidence we are seeing already gives us cause for optimism that minimum unit pricing appears to be having an effect on how much we drink and this should translate into improvements in health and well-being.
That gives hope that, in future, fewer families will have to suffer the devastating loss of a loved one due to alcohol in future.
The most encouraging signs so far are the decrease in consumption and off-sales. The annual Monitoring and Evaluation of Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) report in 2019 showed the biggest drop in consumption in 25 years. Figures from a study looking at sales-based consumption in the first year of MUP show that Scotland bought 3.6% less alcohol from off-sales than in the previous year. This was in contrast to England and Wales, who didn’t have MUP, where off-sales purchases went up by 3.2% (Wales has since introduced minimum pricing, in March 2020). This comparison with England and Wales is really important as it provides a control. When you look at data from before the introduction of MUP, Scotland has consistently bought more alcohol per person than England and Wales. Such a big change suggests that minimum unit pricing is having an impact.
The most encouraging signs so far are the decrease in consumption and off-sales.
Beneath the headline sales figures there are also some interesting shifts happening in what people are buying which suggest that MUP is having the expected effects. People are buying less high-strength cider, which prior to MUP retailed for as little as 18p per unit, leading some stores to stop stocking some products. Producers have reduced pack sizes or reduced the strength of some products, suggesting that they know consumers are price sensitive and that they are looking for products at certain price points. Both of these are positive from a policy perspective as they suggest that MUP is changing both supply and demand. We would like to see those companies who profit from the sale of alcohol be required to provide data on their sales, to provide a fuller picture of what is sold and where, instead of taxpayers’ money having to be spent to purchase this information from market research companies.
The “theory of change” behind minimum pricing, is that an increase in price will reduce consumption, which, in turn, will lead to reductions in harm. The main measures of harm are alcohol specific deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions. While we haven’t yet seen any change in the rate of deaths from alcohol following minimum unit pricing (MUP), this is not overly concerning as it seems reasonable to assume that the effect on deaths would lag behind the reduction in consumption. Interestingly, although overall hospital admissions have not gone down, there are some positive signs that the number of people admitted due to alcoholic liver disease has decreased since MUP was introduced – particularly amongst people living in our poorer communities. This is important because people in our more deprived communities suffer the greatest harm – they are eight times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of drinking.
Young people were one group we thought might be price-sensitive and be impacted by minimum unit pricing. However, a study of around 50 young people who were drinking prior to MUP found that, for them, price was not a major consideration. Many of the products they favoured were already being sold above 50p per unit before MUP was introduced and they did not report changes in how much they were drinking or the products they chose to drink. The main influences on their alcohol use were friends, parents and carers. It’s important to note that the study was designed to help understand the lived experience of the 50 or so young people who took part and is not generalisable to all young people in Scotland. More widely across Scotland we have seen a reduction in how much young people are drinking since the early 2000s.
Contrary to arguments from the alcohol industry, an initial study into the impact on the producers, retailers and wholesalers has shown that they are reporting little change. The Scottish Government estimated that MUP would increase off-trade revenue by over £40m per annum. So far retailers and producers have not reported this type of windfall, however, an independent assessment needs to be made. Any additional profits as a result of MUP should be used to help offset the significant costs faced by our NHS, police and local authorities in dealing with alcohol-related harm.
Any additional profits as a result of MUP should be used to help offset the significant costs faced by our NHS, police and local authorities in dealing with alcohol-related harm.
It also worth noting that some of the negative consequences which some in the industry had claimed would result from the introduction of MUP - such as thousands of Scots driving to England to buy their alcohol, a substantial increase in illicit alcohol sales and the levying of punitive tariffs on Scotch by other countries - have not come to pass. Meanwhile slowly but surely other countries are following Scotland with Wales and the Northern Territories of Australia have already implemented it and the Republic of Ireland having passed legislation on it.
There are many more specific studies to come over the next few years. These will look at a range of impacts including on crime and public safety, on people already drinking heavily before MUP, the children and young people affected by parent or carer drinking, further investigations into the effect on retailers and the economy. There will also be several more years of routine data to come on consumption, deaths and hospital admissions.
It remains to be seen what impact social distancing will have and what new challenges it will throw up. But it seems unlikely that Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol will be changed for the better. The Scottish government has a strong track record in tackling alcohol harm and it will be important that they continue to prioritise the nation’s health and wellbeing as part of our longer-term recovery.
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive
Find out more about why minimum unit pricing was introduced in Scotland and the evaulation and evidence so far.