Home > Is minimum unit pricing for alcohol having the intended effects on alcohol consumption in Scotland?

Holmes, John (2023) Is minimum unit pricing for alcohol having the intended effects on alcohol consumption in Scotland? Addiction, 118, (9), pp. 1609-1616. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.16185.

External website: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.16...

BACKGROUND AND AIMS The Scottish Government introduced minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol on 1 May 2018. This means retailers in Scotland cannot sell alcohol to consumers for less than £0.50 per unit (1 UK unit = 8 g ethanol). The Government intended the policy to increase the price of cheap alcohol, cut alcohol consumption overall and particularly among those drinking at hazardous or harmful levels, and ultimately reduce alcohol-related harm. This paper aims to summarise and assess the evidence to date evaluating the impact of MUP on alcohol consumption and related behaviours in Scotland.

ARGUMENT Evidence from analyses of population-level sales data suggest, all else being equal, MUP reduced the volume of alcohol sold in Scotland by ~ 3.0% to 3.5%, with the largest reductions affecting cider and spirits sales. Analyses of two time series datasets on household-level alcohol purchasing and individual-level alcohol consumption suggest reductions in purchasing and consumption among those drinking at hazardous and harmful levels, but offer conflicting results for those drinking at the most harmful levels. These subgroup analyses are methodologically robust, but the underlying datasets have important limitations as they rely on non-random sampling strategies. Further studies identified no clear evidence of reduced alcohol consumption among those with alcohol dependence or those presenting to emergency departments and sexual health clinics, some evidence of increased financial strain among people with dependence and no evidence of wider negative outcomes arising from changes in alcohol consumption behaviours.

CONCLUSIONS Minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland has led to reduced consumption, including among heavier drinkers. However, there is uncertainty regarding its impact on those at greatest risk and some limited evidence of negative outcomes, specifically financial strain, among people with alcohol dependence.

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