Campaigners are pushing for a minimum unit price for alcohol in England

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Campaigners push for a minimum unit price for alcohol in England after research shows it reduces consumption in Scotland’s and Wales’ heaviest drinking households

  • Campaigners have called for a minimum unit price for alcohol in England
  • Research has shown it has worked to reduce consumption in Scotland and Wales
  • Overall, the largest reductions were seen in the purchase of ciders and spirits

Campaigners have called for a minimum unit price for alcohol in England after research shows it has worked to reduce consumption in some of the heaviest drinking households in Scotland and Wales.

A price of 50 cents per unit was introduced in Scotland in 2018 and an in-depth store survey showed that the policy had a lasting impact two years later.

And a similar minimum unit price in Wales, introduced around the start of the lockdown last year, has also made a positive change, according to the study that surveyed 35,000 British households.

Research by the University of Newcastle and published in The Lancet Public Health showed that the largest decrease overall was seen with the purchase of ciders and spirits.

A price of 50 cents per unit was introduced in Scotland in 2018 and an in-depth store survey showed that the policy had a lasting impact two years later.  Stock image

A price of 50 cents per unit was introduced in Scotland in 2018 and an in-depth store survey showed that the policy had a lasting impact two years later. Stock image

The impact was mainly seen in homes that bought the most alcohol – with the exception of households with high purchases and lowest incomes, which did not change their habits despite the increase.

The study stemmed from fears of increased alcohol consumption in the UK during lockdown.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: ‘Westminster has said time and again that it is waiting for evidence from Scotland and Wales on minimum unit prices – meanwhile, 80 people a day die from alcohol-related causes.

“The evidence is here – it’s time for the government to introduce minimum unit prices in England to save lives, reduce crime and ease the pressure on our NHS and emergency services.”

Joanne Good, whose daughter Megan died in her sleep at the age of 16 after drinking strong white cider at a party, said: ‘Alcohol is too cheap and far too often ends up in the hands of children.

‘I fully support any measure that increases the price of cheap alcohol and helps the young and the vulnerable.

“I know the impact cheap, strong alcohol can have on people’s lives because it has destroyed our lives.”

The mother from North Tyneside said: ‘It is clear that the minimum price per unit is having a positive effect in Scotland and Wales.

“ We really need it here, too, now more than ever, after a record year of alcohol deaths and worrying numbers of people drinking more since the pandemic.

Research by the University of Newcastle and published in The Lancet Public Health showed that the largest decrease overall was seen with the purchase of ciders and spirits.  Stock image

Research by the University of Newcastle and published in The Lancet Public Health showed that the largest decrease overall was seen with the purchase of ciders and spirits.  Stock image

Research by the University of Newcastle and published in The Lancet Public Health showed that the greatest decrease overall was seen with the purchase of ciders and spirits. Stock image

“MUP focuses on the pocket money priced alcohol that causes the most damage and does not affect the price of alcohol in a pub.”

Professor Peter Anderson of Newcastle University, who led the study, said: ‘Our previous work suggested that the introduction of an MUP in Scotland in May 2018 was linked to an immediate reduction in the amount of alcohol that households bought in shops or supermarkets.

This latest analysis shows that policies have continued to make an impact, with data showing a continued decline in the total amount of alcohol purchased by some of the most consuming households two years later.

We can now see that the introduction of an MUP in Wales in early March 2020 had a similar impact to the one we saw in Scotland in 2018.

“It will be interesting to see if this impact continues in Wales in the medium term, as it does in Scotland.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said the MUP should rise to 65p, adding: ‘This is hugely encouraging research from the University of Newcastle.

“Not only will MUP continue to have the intended effect in reducing overall alcohol consumption in Scotland, it is those who tend to buy the most alcohol who are most likely to reduce the amount they buy.”

A government spokesman said, “There are currently no plans to introduce a minimum unit price in England.”

“We are committed to systematically addressing the causes of avoidable deaths and ill health, including the harmful consumption of alcohol, and this year we set out details of the new Health Promotion Agency that will lead these efforts.”

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