Doctors’ leaders have hailed the implementation of minimum unit pricing as an important milestone for Scotland as the policy takes effect following six years of legal delay.
Minimum unit pricing is intended to target excessive consumption of cheaper, high alcohol content drinks which cause the most harm to health and which are favoured by hazardous and harmful drinkers.
There is a strong and proven link between alcohol price and consumption, with controls on price identified as one of the most effective measures that governments can take to reduce alcohol harms.
Economic modelling conducted by the University of Sheffield estimated that an initial minimum price of 50p per unit would save 60 lives in its first year after implementation, rising to 300 lives per year after 10 years of implementation. This modelling also showed that those who drink to excess would be affected more than those who drink modestly.
Commenting, Chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie said:
“It has been a long road to reach this point, but I am delighted that the persistence of alcohol campaigners, with strong BMA support, has paid off and minimum unit pricing has finally taken effect.
“Minimum unit pricing is a policy that will help to save lives and reduce alcohol harms in Scotland. It will help to reduce the burden of alcohol on our health service, on Scottish society, and most importantly on individuals and their families.
“This is an important milestone for Scotland, and many other parts of the world will now be watching the implementation of minimum unit pricing with great interest.
“Importantly, the determination with which minimum unit pricing has been pursued also shows that the alcohol industry cannot expect to successfully block policies designed to protect the health of the public.
“Minimum unit pricing can make a significant impact, but we have always been clear that it needs to be part of a broad range of actions to tackle the harms caused by alcohol misuse. As a society we need to be prepared to show the same determination when it comes to taking further action.”
Note: Joint recommendations for actions that should be included in the Scottish Government’s next alcohol strategy were published last year by BMA Scotland, Alcohol Focus Scotland, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs. These can be viewed at http://www.alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/media/222528/Alcohol-strategy-recommendations-Report.pdf