One of the most effective and cost-effective ways for society to minimise the damage from alcohol consumption is by regulating the price of alcohol.
The price of alcohol matters because when the price of alcohol goes down, consumption of alcohol goes up. The more affordable alcohol becomes, the more people use it, and the more harm we experience because of it.
SHAAP is campaigning for an increase in the price of alcohol to reduce consumption and harm. In a report published in November 2010, Getting the Price of Alcohol Right, summarised the effectiveness of different alcohol pricing mechanisms on tackling harmful alcohol consumption are compared.
Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP)
The latest stage in the MUP court case was in held in the Scottish Court of Session in Edinburgh on 7th and 8th June and 7th and 8th July 2016. During these four days, the Court heard evidence from both the Scottish Government and the Scotch Whisky Association.
A decision from the court proceedings is expected in the autumn.
1. Twenty-Two Scots die every week because of alcohol.
In 2011, the alcohol-related death rate in Scotland was almost twice that of 1982. Hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease have more than quadrupled in the past 30 years and Scotland now has one of the highest cirrhosis mortality rates in Western Europe.
Recently published data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlights that Scotland had the highest alcohol-related death rate in 2014. In Scotland, the age-standarised death rate was 31.2 per 100,000 of the population compared to 20.3 per 100,000 in Ireland, 19.9 per 100,000 in Wales, and 18.1 per 100,000 in England.
2. MUP saves lives.
MUP policy sets a ‘floor price’ below which alcohol cannot be sold, based on the amount of alcohol contained in the product. In parts of Canada, when minimum price has been consistently and rigorously implemented, it has resulted in a reduction in the amount people drink, with fewer hospital admissions and fewer alcohol-related deaths. MUP enjoys strong support from all health bodies in Scotland, the United Kingdom and Europe.
3. Harmful drinkers benefit most from MUP.
MUP is particularly effective at reducing the amount of alcohol drunk by harmful drinkers as they tend to buy most of the cheap alcohol. Harmful drinkers on low incomes will benefit most in terms of improved health and wellbeing.
4. MUP targets cheap, strong alcohol sold in supermarkets and off-licences.
Drinks like own brand vodka or gin, strong white cider and super strength lager, mostly produced in the United Kingdom, will be affected. It will not affect pubs, clubs and restaurants.
5. MUP works with taxation to regulate alcohol price.
The EU excise duty structure for wine and cider prevents targeting drinks by strength. EU rules are that a 15% wine carries the same excise duty as an 11% wine and a 4% cider the same as a 7.5% cider, whereas MUP allows the price on the shelf to relate directly to the alcohol content.
6. MUP is legal in Scotland but has yet to be implemented.
UK and EU trade laws allow in principle for the setting of a minimum price for the retail sale of alcohol for public health purposes by a government or public authority. The Scottish legislation was passed without opposition in May 2012. The Minimum Unit Price (MUP) was set at 50p per unit. The legislation should have been implemented in April 2013.
7. Global alcohol producers have blocked MUP implementation with legal challenges
Legislation to introduce a Minimum Unit Price of 50p was passed without opposition by the Scottish Parliament in May 2012. The legislation was due to come into force in April 2013 but has yet to come to do so because a consortium of global alcohol producers, fronted by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Spirits Europe and the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV) has fought its implementation every step of the way. Many Scottish-based alcohol producers, along with the licensed trade association, have supported the measure.
Download SHAAP's press release following the Advocate General's opinion here.
SHAAP has published a report documenting the full proceedings of the historic event in Brussels on 5th September 2014 when the case for Alcohol Minimum Pricing was made by its supporters. This happened as the European Court of Justice considered its response to the attempts of global alcohol producers, fronted by the Scotch Whisky Association to block the implementation of this legislation.
Download the key arguments for Alcohol Minimum Pricing in Scotland here.
Download the Scottish Government's Position Statement on Alcohol Minimum Pricing here.
Sign our Declaration of Support here.
Open letter from SHAAP and Health partners to the Scotch Whisky Association, 1st April 2014: Stop fighting Minimum Unit Pricing now to save Scottish lives.
You can also raise the profile of this issue by using the hashtag #MUPsaveslives on your communications.