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Home > Minimum unit pricing in Scotland: what we know so far about its effects on consumption and health harms.

Institute of Alcohol Studies. (2020) Minimum unit pricing in Scotland: what we know so far about its effects on consumption and health harms. London: Institute of Alcohol Studies.

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Minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol was introduced in Scotland on 1 May 2018. MUP sets a floor price per unit, currently 50p, below which it is illegal to sell alcohol. This specifically targets the cheapest, strongest drinks favoured by harmful drinkers – those who regularly drink more than the lower risk guidelines. By lowering alcohol consumption in this group, the policy is intended to “save lives, reduce hospital admissions and, ultimately, have a positive impact across the whole health system in Scotland and for wider society” [1]. The legislation introducing MUP requires the Scottish Government to conduct a formal evaluation of the policy’s impact five years after it comes into force, following which the Scottish Parliament will vote on whether to retain MUP.

Conclusions: Two years have passed since the introduction of MUP in Scotland, and the process of collecting evidence and assessing its impact continues. It is unlikely that we will be able to draw firm conclusions until the official MESAS evaluation report is published in 2023. However, based on the data and analysis already in the public domain, there are strong signs that MUP has reduced alcohol consumption, at least in the short term. At the same time, the evidence in terms of health indicators is more limited and ambiguous so far. Over the coming months and years as more information emerges and more research is conducted, a clearer picture should develop, not just about the immediate impact, but also the effects over the longer term, and not just about the effect on consumption and health, but over a wider array of indicators. Such evidence as we have so far is encouraging, but not yet conclusive.


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