By a Newsnet reporter
Research carried out by a team of Canadian academics has shown that applying a minimum price for alcohol can lead to a significant drop in drink related deaths
The Canadian study found that a rise in alcohol prices of 10% led to “immediate, substantial and significant reductions” in alcohol related deaths of 32%.
The report quotes Dr Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia as saying: “This study adds to the scientific evidence that, despite popular opinion to the contrary, even the heaviest drinkers reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase.”
The publication of the report demonstrating the effectiveness of minimum pricing in reducing alcohol-related deaths has been welcomed as an important addition to the evidence in favour of introducing the measure in Scotland.
The findings are a significant boost to the Scottish government who want to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in an attempt at addressing Scotland’s chronic alcohol issue. The SNP has long argued that such a move would save lives as well as freeing up valuable NHS resources.
Last May the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol of 50p aimed at addressing Scotland’s damaging relationship with alcohol which costs the country an estimated £3.56 billion every single year. However it is curently delayed and is facing legal challenges.
All parties supported the move with the exception of the Labour party, who abstained complaining that minimum pricing would lead to an increase in profits for supermarkets. Previously, Labour had said that there had been no evidence supporting health benefit claims and had instead called for a limit on the amount of caffeine in alcoholic drinks.
Speaking last year during the debate which saw the bill pass, Scottish Labour Health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “We don’t believe that minimum pricing is the answer”
She added: “There is clearly an underlying problem that is currently unaffected by price and is perhaps more to do with culture.”
Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) welcomed the Canadian study and said it was further evidence that minimum pricing will be effective.
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive, said: “This is important evidence which shows that minimum pricing is saving lives in Canada and will save lives in Scotland.
“Increasing the price of the cheapest alcohol through minimum pricing has the biggest effect on the heaviest drinkers who are most at risk of alcohol-related illness and death.”
Commenting on the new research, SNP MSP Bob Doris who is deputy convener of the Health and Sport Committee said:
“This new evidence is the latest demonstration of the effectiveness that a minimum price per unit will have in Scotland.
“It shows quite clearly why this is an effective and proportional measure and why it is essential that Scotland is given the green light to introduce a minimum price for alcohol.
“Scotland’s damaging relationship with alcohol costs all of us billions of pounds every year, not least in hospital and policing costs, but also carries a horrendous human cost for the families of everyone who has lost a loved one to an alcohol related death.
“The evidence in favour of this policy simply cannot be ignored when it will save significant numbers of lives and ease the financial pressures on households across the country. We must all put public health before private profit.
“Nobody has ever claimed that minimum pricing is a silver-bullet for all of Scotland’s alcohol related woes, but it is an important tool that this country needs and today’s study adds significant weight to the case for introducing it.”