Minimum pricing ‘working’ in the off-trade

Scots set a new record in 2018 – they drank less alcohol than any year since records began according to NHS Scotland. The 2019 Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy Report, just published, accounts for the year following the introduction of minimum pricing.

However, although the figures are encouraging from a health point of view, Scots still bought more alcohol than people in England and Wales – but the gap is narrowing.

Further proof that the minimum pricing policy is working is the fact that while the volume of alcohol sold in Scotland per adult in supermarkets and off-licences has fallen by 9% it has risen by 3% in England and Wales over the same period.

Hold Fast Entertainment Director Donald MacLeod, owner of The Garage and The Cathouse nightclubs, told DRAM, “I wasn’t too surprised by the report’s findings and I’m actually heartened by the fact that, for once, a policy like this seems to be working. There’s always been an imbalance between the on and the off trade and now that a bottle of Frosted Jack’s cider is £11 instead £3 represents a big leap. Although I have been hearing from people in retail that shoplifting has also gone up. Only in Scotland.”

As for this being part of a wider, worrying trend that will eventually affect the on-trade, Donald said, “There’s been a huge social shift ever since the smoking ban. Glasgow midweek is like a ghost town, and while I’m happy that Scotland is getting healthier and a third of younger people aren’t drinking at all, I just hope that this doesn’t go over the edge.”

Breaking it down, the report said that the average Scottish adult bought 19 units of alcohol per week and that the annual volume of “pure alcohol” in drinks sold in Scotland was 9.9 litres per adult, down about 3% from 10.2 litres in 2017. The healthy drinking limit is set at 14 units for men and women.

The volume of alcohol consumed is 9% higher than in England and Wales (9.1 litres) – the smallest difference since 2003, and since 2010

Key points from The 2019 Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy Report:

• In 2018, the average price of alcohol sold in the off-trade in Scotland was 59 pence per unit, an increase from 55ppu in 2017; in England & Wales the average off-trade price was 56ppu (55ppu in 2017). The average on-trade price in Scotland was £1.87, an increase from £1.80 in 2017; in England & Wales the average on-trade price was £1.84 (£1.78 in 2017).
• In Scotland in 2018 just under a quarter of all off-trade alcohol (23%) was sold at below 50ppu; this fell from 47% in 2017. In England & Wales 42% of all off-trade alcohol was sold at below 50ppu (45% in 2017).
• In 2018, alcohol sold in the UK was 64% more affordable than it was in 1987. In recent years the increase in the affordability of alcohol has been driven by increases in disposable income and a slight fall in the real price of alcohol in the UK.
• Self-reported alcohol consumption data show that 24% of adults in Scotland in 2017 exceeded the revised low-risk weekly drinking guideline for both men and women, a decline from 34% in 2003. Of those exceeding the guideline, mean weekly consumption was highest among those in the lowest income groups.
• In 2017, 1,120 people died in Scotland due to a cause wholly attributable to alcohol (alcohol-specific), an average of 22 people per week. After reaching a peak in 2003, alcohol-specific deaths declined to 2012. Since 2012 the rate of death from alcohol-specific causes has risen overall for both men and women.
• Alcohol-specific death rates are consistently higher in Scotland than in England & Wales. In 2017, rates were twice as high in men and 55% higher in women.
• 23,494 people in Scotland were admitted to a general acute hospital with an alcoholrelated diagnosis in 2017/18, with a total of 35,499 alcohol-related inpatient stays. Despite a downward trend since 2007/08, rates of alcohol-related hospital stays remain four times higher than in the early 1980s.
• The most recent data show that rates of alcohol-specific death and alcohol-related hospital stays were more than twice as high in men as in women and were highest in the 55–64 year age group. Inequalities by area deprivation were stark: in the most deprived areas of Scotland, rates of alcohol-specific death were more than seven times higher and alcohol-related hospital stay more than eight times higher when compared with the least deprived areas.
• While rates of driving under the influence of alcohol have fallen over time, the trend has been relatively flat in recent years. Rates of ‘drunkenness and other disorderly conduct’ offences have not shown a consistent trend but have fallen since 2013/14. In 2017, 39% of prisoners reported being under the influence of alcohol at the time of their arrest.

You can see the full report here.

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