Government should "step up" and introduce minimum unit pricing in England now, Alcohol Change UK CEO says

June 2023 | 6 minutes

Alcohol Change UK responds to the publication of the final evaluation of Minimum Unit Pricing in Scotland.

Responding to the report, Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK, said:

The number of deaths across the UK that are attributable to alcohol is at a record high. This is a stark reminder of the heart-breaking impact that alcohol can have on so many lives. Yet this is avoidable. As evidence from the Scottish government has shown today, Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) is a key tool to help us reduce these tragic and avoidable deaths.

MUP sets the lowest price that can be charged for an alcoholic drink, based on the number of units of alcohol it contains. In Scotland and Wales, this has been set at 50p per unit. Before MUP, most alcoholic drinks sold there were already above this threshold – including all drinks sold in pubs – so were not affected. Those that were affected were the very strong, cheap drinks that tend to be favoured by drinkers who are drinking heavily (such as hazardous and harmful drinkers) and may be on their way to becoming alcohol dependent.

The evidence from the introduction of MUP in Scotland shows that the policy reduced deaths directly caused by alcohol consumption by 13.4% and hospital admissions by 4.1%.

Minimum Unit Pricing is a targeted measure, affecting only the strongest, cheapest drinks, and has been proven to save lives. We call on the Westminster government to look at all of the evidence from the Scottish evaluation and begin the process for introducing MUP in England without delay, saving English lives and benefitting English taxpayers. We would encourage the government to introduce it at a rate of 65p to 75p per unit, given that the 50p per unit rate is now over ten years out of date.

Evidence shows that pricing alone is not enough to address the complex needs of those living in the least deprived areas and of those who are alcohol-dependent and that additional support and policies are required, taking account of health needs, environment and more. But changing the price of alcohol does make a difference both in deprived communities and more generally, as shown in Scotland, and can change consumption, reduce alcohol harm and be life-saving.

The government now needs to step up and adopt this landmark and life-saving policy in England for improved health outcomes for us all.