Minimum pricing ‘effective’ in reducing alcohol consumption, study finds

Minimum unit pricing has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption in the three years since it was implemented, according to a report.

The latest data showing the impact of minimum unit pricing (MUP) was published in a report on Tuesday by Public Health Scotland, showing a 3 per cent net reduction in sales per adult in the three years following the implementation of the policy.

This was driven by a reduction in per-adult sales of alcohol through the off-trade in supermarkets and off licences, the report stated.

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Maree Todd, Scotland’s public health minister, said: “Minimum unit pricing is achieving what it set out to do – a reduction in sales overall with a focus on the cheap high-strength alcohol, which is often drunk by people drinking at harmful levels.”

Minimum unit pricing has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption in the three years since it was implemented, according to a report.
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The research follows an earlier report which demonstrated a similar fall in off-trade alcohol sales in the first 12 months after the implementation of minimum pricing and allowed for adjustment including geographical control and for Covid-19 associated restrictions.

Sales of cider, perry, spirits and beer have seen net reductions but there have been net increases in the sales of wine and fortified wine such as Buckfast.

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Figures were based on the total volume of pure alcohol sold, both through pubs and in off licences.

Lucie Giles, Public Health Intelligence Principal at PHS, said: “The overall impact of MUP on total per-adult alcohol sales in Scotland was a 3% net reduction, driven by a reduction in off-trade sales.

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“We found little evidence to suggest that MUP caused any changes in per-adult sales of alcohol through the on-trade, suggesting that MUP did not cause a substantial shift towards alcohol consumption in pubs.

“Our main finding was consistent across a range of different conditions as tested through our additional analyses.

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“We can conclude that, across Scotland as a whole, MUP has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption in the first three years of implementation.”

The report was compiled in collaboration with the University of Glasgow.

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Jim Lewsey, Professor of Medical Statistics at the School of Health and Wellbeing at the university, said: “The methods we’ve used in this study allow us to be confident that the reduction in per-adult alcohol sales that we’ve shown is as a result of the introduction of MUP, rather than some other factor.

“Incorporating data from England and Wales into our analysis controls for any changes in sales in a neighbouring region where the legislation was not introduced.

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“This was of particular importance with the Covid-19 pandemic occurring in our three-year, post-intervention study period, as we know the pandemic impacted on where people were able to purchase alcohol.

“We’ve been able to adjust for other factors, such as household income, sales of alcohol through pubs and clubs and of other drink types.

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“This statistical method also allows us to take into consideration any existing trends and seasonal variation in the data, which may have existed independently of MUP, but which could have impacted on alcohol sales following its introduction.

“The methods we’ve used and the consistency in our results allow us to be confident that the reduction in alcohol sales is associated with the introduction of MUP in Scotland.”