Minimum with a decade previously of 115% and

Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol – would it still
work? 

 

Scotland’s
minimum pricing policy for alcohol, to be fixed at 50 pence a unit, will come
into force on 1 May 2018. This note examines correlation between Minimum Unit
Pricing (MUP), alcohol consumption, and alcohol related harm, considers
evidence for the effectiveness of MUP, and outlines major vectors for efficient
evidence-based policymaking. 

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Background

There is a
number of people in the UK experience harm from irresponsible drinking.  Alcohol misuse is a significant risk
factor attributable to early mortality, ill health, and disability. Excessive
alcohol consumption can also increase
the risk of unemployment, the
likelihood of suicidal ideation or criminal behavior. Irresponsible alcohol
consumption has significant impact on both health and social wellbeing and
national economics.

Today alcohol is 60% more
affordable in the UK than it was in 1980. In England and Wales, there has been a ban on
alcohol being sold at below cost since May 2014; the first conviction for
selling alcohol below the level took place in 2016. In 2012 legislation to have
a minimum price of £0.50 per unit was passed in Scotland. On 15 November 2017,
the UK Supreme Court confirmed that the legislation is lawful. The policy of
MUP in Scotland aims to decrease alcohol related deaths by about 120 per year
and reduce the number of hospital admissions of 2,000 per year by year twenty
of the policy.

 

 (Annual figures for England show over 1
million alcohol-related hospital admissions in 2013-2014 and 6500
alcohol-related deaths in 2013. These figures have dramatically increased
compared with a decade previously of 115% and 10%, respectively – diagram)

 

Key
findings

The review
examined the effect of price interventions on alcohol consumption,
alcohol-related morbidity and mortality, and wider harms in several countries
including The UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Poland, Finland, Russia, etc. from
1970 to nowadays. The results can be summarized in few thesis.

Strong
association between pricing and alcohol consumption 

In 16/26
studies published in peer-reviewed journals, correlation between pricing and
alcohol consumption or alcohol-related harm was evident. Inverse associations have
been documented in Europe, North America and Australia. For example, studies in
Canada showed that 10% increases in minimum prices are associated with
reductions in alcohol consumption of 3.4–8.4%, reductions in alcohol-related
hospital admissions of 9% and reductions in mortality caused by drinking of
32%. Studies where price changes preceded changes in alcohol consumption or
harm have also been conducted in Russia, Poland, and Finland.

Pricing
matters more for heavier drinkers

It is
evident that the higher the MUP the greater the reductions in alcohol
consumption or alcohol-related harms. Thus, a thorough examining of MUP in the
context of average personal income and inflation should be hold to use an
alcohol price as an economic mechanism to influence consumption in the most
effective way. The review outlines that MUP has different impact depending on
alcohol consumption patterns. Statistically significant associations between
cheaper alcohol and heavier drinking were found in the UK, Australia, Ireland,
and the USA. Reviews report that the reduction in consumption among
harmful drinkers is considerably
higher than among moderate drinkers as they are more likely to pay less than a proposed MUP (?????
?? ??????)

MUP is not
an exclusive factor to influence alcohol consumption

Although
MUP policy demonstrates a significant impact on alcohol consumption, there is a
wide range of factors that are also important. Except for price
(affordability), the two key drivers are availability (how easy it is to
purchase) and acceptability (social norms). This also includes the minimum
price level chosen and other governmental regulations like taxation which is
often considered alongside with minimum pricing. A tax increase can lead
to improvements in overall
national health; there is evidence that doubling tax rates decreases
alcohol-related mortality by an average of 35%, with further reductions in
violence, crime, road fatalities, and sexually transmitted infections. (??????? ? ???????
?????????)

Adjustable
factors influencing alcohol consumption

Taxation
and price regulation (MUP and taxes)

Regulating
marketing (advertising abilities including sponsorship)

Regulating
availability (points of sales, age of customers, time limitations )

Providing
information and education (raising awareness of hazards)

Managing the
drinking environment (regulations on serving alcohol to intoxicated customers,
replacing glasswear with plastic alternatives, public drinking regulations)

Preventing
drink-driving (high fines and lower drink-drive limits)

Brief
interventions and treatment (examining drinking patterns and offering advice)

 

Conclusion
and recommendations

It is highly
probable that introducing MUP for alcohol would reduce alcohol consumption and
alcohol-related harms. Heavy drinkers who are most likely to cause
alcohol-related harm will be influenced by MUP more than moderate responsible
drinkers that can possibly bring significant economic benefits. It is essential
to examine the MUP fixed at 50p a unit and consider its potential increase as
the policy is designed for a five-year time. Implementation of a wide range of
measures preventing the misuse of alcohol can lead to the enhancement of MUP
policy efficiency. Combining alcohol polices may create a critical mass
effect, changing social norms around drinking to increase the impact on
alcohol-related harm. The
challenge for policy makers is to implement the most effective and
cost-effective set of policies for the Scottish context.

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