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Alcohol sales slump bolsters minimum price policy

A dip in the sale of alcohol in Scotland supports arguments for a minimum price per unit, doctors leaders have said.

Alcohol purchases fell by 4 per cent between 2010 and 2011, according to figures from NHS Health Scotland.

But sales are still around a fifth higher than England and Wales and are 10 per cent higher than they were in 1994.

Indications of a downward trend in retail sales were visible across all drinks categories apart from cider.

Legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament in May for the introduction of a 50p per unit of alcohol.

BMA Scotland chair Brian Keighley said: ‘These figures reinforce the relationship between price and consumption, and that is why the BMA supported minimum pricing in Scotland — a measure that has been supported by the Scottish Parliament, but is yet to be implemented.

‘A significant proportion of the population regularly drinks over and above the recommended daily guidelines and the NHS will bear the brunt of the health consequences.’

Still unacceptably high

NHS Health Scotland principal public health adviser Clare Beeston said the report could not demonstrate the reason for the fall.

She said: ‘We may be seeing the result of decreasing affordability as incomes fall during the current deep and sustained economic downturn or of efforts by a wide range of organisations over a number of years. It is likely to be a combination of these and other factors.’

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said sales were still at unacceptably high levels.

She said: ‘These findings demonstrate the continuing extent of Scotland’s alcohol misuse problem, with enough alcohol being sold for every adult to exceed weekly recommended [21 units] limits for men each and every week since at least 2000.’

She said Scotland’s plans to introduce minimum pricing per unit of alcohol would almost exclusively affect sales from shops and off-licences and raise the price of cheaper alcohol.

What the BMA is doing about alcohol