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Research Suggests Raising Price of Alcohol in Scotland Will Save Lives

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

New research commissioned by the Scottish government suggests that setting a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland will eventually save hundreds of lives a year.

The UK’s Times Online reports that the research will also claim that it will reduce crime and days lost from work, thus helping to strengthen the economy.

The greatest impact will be among heavy drinkers of strong cider and lager as well as own-brand supermarket spirits rather than those who drink a glass of wine at home.

The research by a team from the University of Sheffield comes ahead of the publication later this year of a Scottish draft bill which will set out the planned level for minimum pricing on alcohol sold in shops—reportedly 40 pence per 10ml unit.

If this were adopted by the Scottish Parliament, Scotland would be the first country in Europe to pursue such a policy. The bill is thought to include a ban on promoting cheap drinks.

The stated aim of the legislation, which is struggling to win sufficient support among opposition parties at Holyrood, is to challenge Scotland’s drink culture, a problem which costs the Scottish economy £2.25 billion a year in health, social services, crime, and lost days from work.

The bill’s supporters claim that the price of alcohol has fallen by almost 70 percent relative to disposable income while consumption has risen by more than a fifth, leaving Scotland with one of the worst alcohol-related death and illness rates in the world.

Alcohol is also a cause of around 3,000 murders, serious assaults, and attempted murders a year in Scotland, as well as hundreds of rapes and attempted rapes.

The study indicates that minimum pricing and a promotions ban would save 70 lives in the first year after implementation, rising to 370 lives a year after a decade. That would mean deaths from drinking in Scotland would fall by five percent in the first year and more than 25 percent by the tenth year.

In terms of price, it has been estimated that the cost of a bottle of own-label supermarket vodka would rise from the present £7 to around £10.50, while the price of strong supermarket cider would rise from below £3 for three liters to more than £6.50. An average bottle of wine would cost at least £3.60 and a six-pack of lager £4.80.

However, the Scotch Whisky Association cautions that it would also affect Scotland’s internationally recognized drink, with the price of a bottle of whisky rising to £11.20. Other critics say evidence from abroad suggests the policy would not work and that it would not address the problems that lead people to drink too much.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, said: “It’s now widely recognized that excessive alcohol consumption across society, fanned by rock-bottom pricing, is one of the biggest threats to Scottish public health.”

She added: “But it’s clear that to bring about a real, lasting culture change we’ve got to be bolder. That’s why the Scottish government is bringing forward a radical package of measures in the Alcohol Bill.”