Public Health Scotland (PHS) has today published the final report on the independent evaluation of the impact of minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in Scotland. Evidence shows that MUP has had a positive impact on health outcomes, including addressing alcohol-related health inequalities. It has reduced deaths directly caused by alcohol consumption by an estimated 13.4% and hospital admissions by 4.1%, with the largest reductions seen in men and those living in the 40% most deprived areas.
MUP led to a 3% reduction in alcohol consumption at a population level, as measured by retail sales. The reduction was particularly driven by sales of cider and spirits through the off-trade (supermarkets and shops) products that increased the most in price. Evidence from a range of data sources shows that the greatest reductions were amongst those households purchasing the most alcohol, with little impact on households purchasing at lower levels.
For those people with alcohol dependence there was limited evidence of any reduction in consumption and there is some evidence of consequences for those with established alcohol dependence on low incomes, that led them to prioritise spending on alcohol over food. At a population level there is no clear evidence of substantial negative impacts on social harms such as alcohol-related crime or illicit drug use.
The evaluation report shows that while the impact on alcoholic drink producers and retailers varied depending on the mix of products made or sold, there is no clear evidence of substantial negative impacts on the alcoholic drinks industry in Scotland as a whole.
Clare Beeston, Lead for the evaluation of MUP, Public Health Scotland said:
“We have seen reductions in deaths and hospital admissions directly caused by sustained, high levels of alcohol consumption, and this is further evidence that those drinking at harmful and hazardous levels have reduced their consumption. MUP alone is not enough to address the specific and complex needs of those with alcohol dependence who will often prioritise alcohol over other needs, and it is important to continue to provide services and any wider support that addresses the root cause of their dependence.
“Those living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas in Scotland experience alcohol-specific death rates at least five times greater than those living in the least deprived areas. Alcohol-related disorders are a leading contributor to health inequalities in Scotland.
“Overall, the evidence shows that MUP has had a positive impact on improving health outcomes, including alcohol-related health inequalities, and can play a part in addressing the preventable harm that affect far too many people, families and communities.”
Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science, Public Health Scotland said:
“Public Health Scotland is committed to evidence-informed policy, and we are confident in the validity of the robust research published today. The evidence in our report is consistent with earlier research on minimum pricing elsewhere.
“Public Health Scotland is confident that MUP is an effective mechanism to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland and we support the continuation of MUP beyond April 2024.”