In Public Health Scotland’s final summary report on the minimum unit pricing (MUP) policy in Scotland, the health body has said “MUP has had a positive impact on health outcomes”.
Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science, Public Health Scotland said:
Public Health Scotland is committed to evidence-informed policy, and we are confident in the validity of the robust research published today. The evidence in our report is consistent with earlier research on minimum pricing elsewhere.
Public Health Scotland is confident that MUP is an effective mechanism to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland and we support the continuation of MUP beyond April 2024.
The report summarises the available evidence collected over the past 5 years since the policy was introduced and states that:
- MUP led to a 3% reduction in alcohol consumption at a population level.
- The reduction was particularly driven by sales of cider and spirits through the off-trade (supermarkets and shops) products that increased the most in price.
- The greatest reductions were amongst those households purchasing the most alcohol, with little impact on households purchasing at lower levels.
- It has reduced deaths directly caused by alcohol consumption by an estimated 13.4% and hospital admissions by 4.1%.
- The largest reductions in deaths were seen in men and those living in the 40% most deprived areas.
- For those people with alcohol dependence there was limited evidence of any reduction in consumption and there is some evidence of consequences for those with established alcohol dependence on low incomes, that led them to prioritise spending on alcohol over food.
- At a population level there is no clear evidence of substantial negative impacts on social harms such as alcohol-related crime or illicit drug use.
The Institute of Alcohol Studies welcomes this news, with chief executive Dr Katherine Severi highlighting the lives saved:
This policy is one of the most comprehensively analysed measures in recent years, testament to the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling alcohol harm. And today’s report shows how important it is to design policies that create a healthier and safer environment for all.
It is easy to forget that this has a real impact on people’s lives. There are over 250 people alive today who wouldn’t be if the policy had not been implemented. It is also easy to take for granted that thousands of friends and family members of these people are saved from the grief of their loss. Not only has the policy saved lives, but it also reduced inequality by saving more lives among the most deprived in Scotland. It is therefore a progressive policy that can support the levelling up agenda.
For years now, the UK government has said it is interested in MUP and has been waiting to see what the Scottish outcome will be. Well now we know. There is no time to lose in implementing the policy in England too. Otherwise avoidable deaths will continue while we wait.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said:
Minimum price has saved and improved hundreds of lives in Scotland. That is the clear message from the final evaluation by Public Health Scotland. It shows the Scottish Parliament was right to pass this world-first legislation back in 2012. And the Scottish Government was right to face down opposition from the alcohol industry who consistently put their profits above public health.
MUP has not only worked, it has out-performed expectations. The policy was anticipated to save 80 lives a year by year three, but the evaluation shows it has saved more than 250 lives a year, with people in our poorest communities benefiting the most.
Now we know that minimum unit pricing is truly life-saving, the policy must be continued, and the price increased. To scrap it now or leave it at a level that will quickly lose its effect would condemn hundreds of people to unnecessary suffering.
Alcohol Focus Scotland and 29 charities and medical organisations have called on the Scottish Government to uprate the minimum unit price to at least 65p per unit. We hope the Parliament will come together again as it did in 2012, to optimise this policy, improve the nation’s health and reduce the burden on our NHS.