ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION dropped by the equivalent of 38 million pints of beer a year after the economy crashed and multi-buy deals were scrapped, according to NHS experts.
The fall in consumption has had a beneficial impact on Scotland’s health, with over a third fewer alcohol-related deaths than a decade ago and a drop in related hospital admissions of a quarter since 2007/08, an evaluation of Scotland’s alcohol strategy by NHS Health Scotland found.
But alcohol-related deaths remain 1.4 times higher than 1981 and hospital admissions are 1.4 times higher than 1991/92, it said.
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Alcohol sales declined by 9 per cent since their peak in 2009 - equivalent to about nine million fewer bottles of wine, three million fewer bottles of spirits or 38 million fewer pints of beer per year.
Despite this decline, sales remain 17 per cent higher than in England and Wales, mainly due to higher sales through supermarkets and off-licences in Scotland, particularly of lower-priced spirits.
The report also shows that the proportion of alcohol sold at below 50 pence per unit (ppu) in Scotland’s off-sales - the initial price proposed for minimum pricing - is declining.
In 2013, 53 per cent of the total volume of pure alcohol sold through the off-trade, excluding discount retailers, in Scotland was sold at below 50ppu, a decrease from 77 per cent in 2009.
Clare Beeston, principal public health adviser at NHS Health Scotland, said: “Alcohol sales are falling in both Scotland and England and Wales, and it is likely that declining affordability of alcohol, due to the economic downturn across the whole of Great Britain in recent years, is responsible for some of these improvements.
“However, the ban on multi-buy promotions for alcohol and the increased number of people accessing specialist services are also likely to be contributing to the improvements seen in Scotland.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government is committed to tackling Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol, so it is encouraging to see a downward trend in alcohol-related harm, and for this trend to be particularly evident in our most deprived communities.
“However, the fact remains that on average almost 700 people per week are admitted to hospital in Scotland due to alcohol, which is why we are absolutely committed to introducing minimum unit pricing.
“This is about targeting the cheap high-strength alcohol that causes so much harm within our communities, often in the most deprived areas of Scotland.
“Given the link between consumption and harm, and evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption, addressing price is an important element of any long-term strategy to tackle alcohol misuse.”
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