Alcohol Act successfully reducing alcohol sales in Scotland

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   By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP Bob Doris has welcomed statistics showing the amount of alcohol sold in Scotland has fallen by 2.6% in the year since the ban on multi-buy deals was introduced in 2011.

Mr Doris, deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee, welcomed the report from NHS Scotland Glasgow University that says the Alcohol Act was responsible for a 4% drop in wine sales and an 8.5% cut in pre-mixed drinks.

According to a new reported Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy carried out by NHS Scotland and Glasgow University, the amount of alcohol sold in Scottish shops has fallen by 2.6% in the year since the Alcohol Act was introduced.  The Act aimed to reduce the amount of alcohol sold in Scotland by banning multi-buy deals, which health professionals believe contribute to irresponsible drinking.

Scotland’s problematic relationship with alcohol is of long standing.  In 2007, Scots consumed the equivalent of 11.8 litres of pure alcohol per person per year, equivalent to 570 pints of 4 per cent beer, nearly 500 pints of strong 5 per cent lager, 42 bottles of vodka or 125 bottles of wine – enough for every single adult to exceed the sensible drinking guidelines for men of 21 units every week of the year.  Scotland ranks eighth in the world league table for alcohol consumption.

In 2011, a quarter of men in Scotland and just under a fifth of women (18%) were categorized as hazardous or harmful drinkers, defined as men drinking more than 21 units per week and women drinking more than 14.

Misuse of alcohol contributes to a wide range of health problems, including high blood pressure, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, pancreatitis, some cancers, mental ill-health, and accidents, as well as social problems such as antisocial behaviour and violent crime.

A report published in 2009 attributed 5% of deaths in Scotland to alcohol, while the annual costs of excessive alcohol consumption are estimated to be £3.6 billion. Alcohol-related morbidity and mortality is not evenly distributed throughout the population and the burden is greatest among those living in the most deprived areas.

Commenting on the decline in alcohol purchases identified by the new report, Dr Jim Lewsey, from the University of Glasgow and co-author of the report, said:

“Similar declines were not observed in England and Wales, where the Alcohol Act does not apply. The possible impacts of other factors, such as changes in income and alcohol prices, were taken into account. This provides evidence that the effects were associated with the act and not some other factor.”

Welcoming the findings, Mr Doris said:

“This welcome report is testament to the effectiveness of the Alcohol Act, demonstrating how the ban on multi-buy deals is working.

“This is in comparison to England and Wales, where the ban is not in place, where there has not been any similar declines.

“The SNP is committed to tackling Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol, which is why this report should be welcomed across the country.

“The multi-buy ban was to target those people who go to supermarkets for one bottle of wine and end up buying three instead due to these offers.

“This is helping us reduce alcohol over-consumption but more needs to be done.

“That is why the SNP is dedicated to introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol.

“As Dr Lewsey says the ‘Alcohol Act would be enhanced by minimum unit pricing, which would prevent the sale of cheap, high strength alcohol’.

“There is no silver-bullet solution but minimum pricing, combined with the measures already introduced, is a big step to improving our country.”