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Scotland becomes first country to implement minimum unit alcohol price

DBR Staff Writer Published 02 May 2018

The minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol has come into force in Scotland, making it the first country in the world to implement such a law.

The legislation has been welcomed by several health organisations including the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), which urged England to follow Scotland’s lead.

The new legislation sets a minimum 50 pence per unit price to tackle the damage caused by cheap, high strength alcohol.

The legislation was first passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, but the move was criticized by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and started a legal battle against the bill.

Llast year, the UK Supreme Court ruled that minimum unit pricing for alcohol is legal on health grounds under the European Union’s law.

Studies have suggested that MUP is one of the effective measures to reduce alcohol-related health harm that costs the NHS around £3.5bn each year.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stated that this was a bold action from the Scottish government and shows that the Scots can lead by introducing innovative solutions to public health challenges.

She also gave statistics supporting the legislation and stated that on an average about 22 alcohol-related deaths occur every week in Scotland and 697 hospital admissions. Given this proven link between consumption and harm, minimum unit pricing is an effective and efficient way to tackle the damages caused by cheap and high strength alcohol.

RSPH along with several other health bodies including the Alcohol Health Alliance is now urging Westminster to introduce MUP in England. If implemented in England, it could save about 1,148 lives and prevent 74,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions in the first five years alone.

RSPH CEO Shirley Cramer said: “When it comes to reducing alcohol harm, minimum unit pricing is one of the most potent tools we have at our disposal, with numerous studies and international evidence suggesting it can significantly reduce deaths and other health harms.

“We are delighted to see the Scottish Government leading the way with such progressive and responsible public health policy, and to see the other devolved national administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland progressing their own plans for MUP.

“We hope that the Westminster government will now look to the success of such policies and not leave people in England at a greater risk of harm from irresponsibly cheap, super-strength alcohol.”


Image: Health organisations urge England to implement minimum unit pricing for alcohol. Photo: Courtesy of Steve McGrath/FreeImages.com.