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Minimum alcohol price caused alcoholics to spend less on food, heating: Study

A new study has concluded that the introduction of minimum alcohol prices (MUP) in Scotland did not cause alcoholics to drink less, but it did cause “increases in financial strain among some individual drinkers and their family members.”

Evaluating the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing in Scotland on people who are drinking at harmful levels, says that the introduction of MUP led to alcoholics saving money “by reducing spending on food and utility bills, increasing borrowing from sources such as family, friends or pawnbrokers, running down savings or other capital, and using foodbanks or other charities.”

The study, which was carried out by Public Health Scotland, examined the impact of the MUP brought in by Scotland in 2018. That policy saw the Scottish Government introduce a minimum price of £0.50 for a unit of alcohol. The legislation introducing the MUP has a sunset clause, which means the legislation will automatically expire in 2024 unless the Scottish Parliament votes to extend the legislation.

More generally the study found that that the introduction of MUP “was not associated with a significant decline in the proportion of drinkers in Scotland consuming alcohol at harmful levels,” and that there was evidence that MUP had prompted consumers to move from ciders and beers to spirits.

The study states that “less robust evidence” suggests MUP has caused “Increased intoxication and perceived risks of intimate partner violence arising from drinkers consuming their alcohol as spirits rather than cider or beer,” and that the volume of cross-border alcohol purchases between Scotland and England has increased.

The study notes that quantitative analyses of MUP’s impact “s found no significant changes [in alcohol consumption] and also no changes in the severity of dependence among those presenting to treatment services.”

Critics of MUP had long argued that the policy would not cause alcoholics to drink less, due to the nature of addiction, but would rather ensure that families in which a parent was an alcoholic would be pushed closer to poverty due to the increases cost of that addiction. This new report seems to bear those concerns out.

Public Health Scotland have concluded that the implementation of MUP in Scotland has been “broadly successful from a policy mechanism and enforcement perspective,” although this new study says that their findings “introduces greater uncertainty as to whether the policy is achieving its intended effects [of reducing alcohol consumption amongst those drinking at harmful levels].”

Ireland introduced a MUP in January of this year.

You can read the study in full HERE.

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