Specialists from the World Health Organisation (WHO), meeting in Edinburgh, said that while it was too early to gauge the impact of minimum pricing in Scotland, it had “significantly” reduced alcohol-related harm after being introduced in Russia in 2010.
An EU-funded project carried out by the WHO has found that while there have been decreases in heavy episodic drinking and drink-related deaths across 30 European countries between 2010 ans 2016, there has been no significant changes in overall alcohol consumption.
The experts say cancer is the cause of almost one third of all alcohol-attributable deaths.
Dr Jürgen Rehm, a Canada-based adviser to the WHO, said: “Very clearly, minimum unit pricing is going to have a significant impact. The countries that have implemented that have had pretty great success. Unfortunately, there’s not that many countries which have done so.
“Overall there are six countries (in the world) where we have minimum unit pricing. The data is mainly coming from Russia and Canada and it has been quite successful.”
Introduced in Scotland earlier this year, the 50p-per-unit minimum seeks to reduce alcohol harm by making cheap drink more expensive.
While the WHO does not issue specific guidelines, Dr Rehm said he would recommend people drink no more than one unit a day – less than the amount typically found in a 330ml bottle of beer.
And he said governments could encourage bars and restaurants to offer smaller glasses.
He said: “One unit a day - 8 grams of alcohol. That’s low risk. In a lot of countries, a glass of wine is 10cl. I must say I was surprised that I ordered a glass of wine in a restaurant in Edinburgh and it was 250ml – I had to give some back.”
Dr João Breda, head of WHO’s European office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, said: “We don’t have an ideological position. We are evidence-based and science drives our advice to member states. We understand national context and not all countries can take the same decisions at the same time. But the current evidence tells us that using price is a very strong and very important (form of) ammunition and should be considered by all countries.”