Tackling Scotland's Alcohol Problem

Scottish Government Announces 50p Minimum Unit Price

18th May 2012

The Scottish Government have announces a minimum unit price of 50p.

In response to the announcement SHAAP issued a press release that can be read here. Dr Peter Rice, chair of SHAAP said: "SHAAP welcomes the announcement of further progress towards minimum unit pricing. We first called for this in 2007 because of our concerns about the effect of cheap alcohol on Scotland’s health. The Medical and Nursing Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland were united in the view that action was needed. We need price controls that are effective in all economic circumstances, and don’t leave crucial decisions affecting health in the hands of the retailers and Minimum Unit Price achieves this."

SHAAP Responds to WHO removal of alcohol consumption targets

17th May 2012

SHAAP response to the WHO Discussion Paper on Monitoring framework and targets for the prevention and control of NCD

The WHO is currently consulting on a monitoring framework and targets for the prevention and control of NCDs. This follows the UN High-level meeting on NCDs in September, which identified four main common risk factors: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity.

Alcohol was previously included in the major risk factors for NCDs and the first draft of the WHO monitoring framework and targets included a target to achieve a 10% relative reduction in per capita consumption of litres of pure alcohol among persons aged 15+ years. In the latest WHO discussion paper this target has been omitted.

The SHAAP response can be downloaded here.

Updated Sheffield research confirms value of minimum pricing

31st January 2012

An updated report from Sheffield University, published this morning (31st Jan), confirms that that minimum pricing, combined with an off-licence discount ban, could reduce alcohol consumption and have a significant effect on reducing alcohol-related harm.

Dr Bruce Ritson, chairperson of SHAAP said: "This updated research, along with new empirical evidence from Canada showing the effectiveness of minimum pricing in reducing alcohol consumption, reinforces the case for introducing minimum pricing in Scotland to tackle record levels of alcohol harm."

The Sheffield team first carried out the report in 2009 and it has now been refreshed in light of new data. The report looks at a range of minimum prices from 25p to 70p, with and without a ban on promotions.

Key findings from the updated report, using a 45p minimum price, with a promotions ban, as an illustrative figure, include:

  • Overall weekly consumption across society would fall by six per cent. Consumption changes are greatest for harmful drinkers
  • Alcohol related deaths would fall by about 60 in the first year and over 300 by year ten of the policy
  • Alcohol-attributable morbidity decreases with an estimated reduction of 1,000 acute and 260 chronic illnesses in year one
  • A fall in general hospital admission of 1,660 in year one and 6,630 by year ten
  • Harmful drinkers would pay an extra £132 per year, compared to just £9 for moderate drinkers
  • A fall in crime of 3,600 offences per year
  • Around 36,500 fewer workdays lost through absenteeism and 1,180 fewer people unemployed because of alcohol misuse each year
  • Harm reduction valued at £952 million over 10 years

Read the media release from Sheffield University.

Minimum pricing needed now more than ever

1st November 2011

A new report published today by SHAAP and AFS shows that minimum unit pricing is needed now more than ever as alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices. The report finds that despite recent duty increases, alcohol is still being sold for as little as 14p a unit in Scotland.

The report demonstrates how the alcohol industry uses price, place, promotion and product design to persuade us that too much alcohol is not enough. Super-low prices are just one of the industry’s ‘tricks of the trade’ to get people to buy ever more alcohol. In supermarkets in Scotland within the last two weeks:

  • Two cans of lager were sold for less than the price of a can of leading brand cola.
  • A young person receiving the average pocket money of £5.89 could buy 8 litres of cider containing 33 units of alcohol – enough alcohol to kill them.
  • Branded vodka was sold for 32p a unit – less than a can of leading brand cola.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said:

“We need minimum pricing now more than ever. Over the last few weeks, supermarkets have sought to undermine the new licensing legislation banning bulk discount buys by reducing the price of individual cans or bottles and encouraging online customers to buy cases of wine distributed from England. These antics make it clear that the big supermarkets are motivated by profit not public interest. This only serves to reinforce the case for government intervention through measures like minimum pricing if we want to reduce record levels of alcohol harm in Scotland. The vociferous opposition to minimum pricing by some of the big alcohol producers is reminiscent of the tactics the tobacco industry used to try to resist regulation which proved to be successful in saving lives. They should be seen for what they are – big business putting profits before health”.

Dr Bruce Ritson, Chair of SHAAP added:

“Abundant evidence shows the most effective way of reducing consumption and harm is increasing the price of alcohol relative to disposable income. Minimum pricing offers us the opportunity to save lives and protect communities from the devastating effects of harmful alcohol use. We know that minimum pricing is being discussed by Ministers in Wales and Northern Ireland and alcohol agencies in England are calling on Westminster to follow Scotland’s lead in introducing the policy. The coalition government’s favoured pricing measure of banning the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty and VAT will have virtually no effect on consumption and harm. Our colleagues in England are rightly looking to Scotland to lead the way in the UK and we hope the Scottish Parliament unites around this important piece of legislation.” 

For more information download: Four Steps to alcohol misuse: how the industry uses price, place, promotion and product design to persuade us that too much alcohol is not enough.


RE-THINKING ALCOHOL LICENSING: New report from SHAAP and AFS calls for more effective controls on how, when and where alcohol is sold to reduce record levels of alcohol-related harm

16th September 2011

A new report by SHAAP and Alcohol Focus Scotland launched today (Thursday) at Alcohol Focus Scotland’s National Licensing Conference, calls on licensing boards to make more effective use of licensing legislation to control the overall availability of alcohol and reduce record levels of alcohol harm.

The report also calls on the Scottish Government to take further action to regulate the sale of alcohol in off-sales and return licensing to its fundamental purpose of controlling the availability of alcohol to prevent harm. Recommendations include:-

• Licensing policy should consider the overall effect of licensed premises on drinking behaviour and levels of alcohol harm in communities, not just the operation of individual licensed premises.
• Off-sales hours should be reduced to 10am until 8pm.
• Licensing boards should publish detailed information about the number, type and capacity of licensed premises in their area.
• Separate alcohol-only checkouts should be introduced in supermarkets.
• Licensed premises should be required to provide annual information on the volume of alcohol sold by drink type as a condition of their licence.
• Licensing fees should be applied based on volume of alcohol sold.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said:

“Scotland is unique in having a licensing system which is based on protecting and improving public health. But we need to make sure that this principle is put into practice. The recommendations we are making today would shift the focus away from individual ‘problem’ licensed premises, to managing the overall availability of alcohol in the interests of society’s health and wellbeing. The licensing system exists because there is a consensus in society that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity. It is a substance with known toxic, intoxicating and addictive effects. As such, it needs to be carefully regulated.”

Dr Bruce Ritson, chair of SHAAP said:

“Licensing laws and practice have been steadily relaxed over the past 30 years with more licences issued to a wider range of premises and for longer opening hours. This greater availability has been associated with a substantial rise in alcohol consumption and harm. Over the past two decades, Scotland has had one of the fastest growing liver cirrhosis death rates in the world. Compared to other licensed or otherwise regulated products, alcohol stands out in being highly visible, accessible and aggressively promoted. If we want to reduce the record levels of alcohol harm we need to tackle the price and availability of alcohol.”


  • The report was informed by an expert workshop convened in June 2011 to consider the operation of Scotland’s licensing system and in particular the licensing objective of promoting and protecting public health. Discussion was also informed by an Opinion from Sir Crispin Agnew QC.
  • The report can be downloaded here

Help or hindrance? Corporate involvement in international nutrition and alcohol laws

16th September 2011

A consortium of non-profit public health advocacy groups will press world leaders and other representatives of the 193 member states to call for strong public policy measures to curb nutrition and alcohol-related diseases and safeguards against conflicts of interest in the policy-making process when they meet in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly next week.
The U.N. High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases will adopt a strategy at the General Assembly on Monday and Tuesday, September 19-20, 2011, following difficult negotiations on a Political Declaration that began in June.

Last year, the U.N. pledged to create a strategy to limit cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases caused by poor nutrition, excess consumption of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and physical inactivity. Negotiations during the summer revealed competing views about the effectiveness of voluntary food industry efforts, adequacy of existing international law, and the role of for-profit companies and public-interest groups in the policy-making process. The public-interest groups stress that governments now have an unprecedented full and sophisticated grasp of gigantic health and economic burden NCDs, but have been decidedly naive about conflicts of interest in policy-making. (See the near-final Political Declaration at http://www.who.int/nmh/events/un_ncd_summit2011/political_declaration.pdf , program agenda at http://cspinet.org/canada/pdf/summit-information-note-9-sept-2011.pdf , and the statement of the Conflict of Interest Coalition at http://cspinet.org/canada/pdf/conflict-of-interest.pdf )

  • Leaders simply must get fundamental disease rate-reduction targets locked in—starting with 25% by 2025—and really embrace effective regulations on population-level salt reduction and trans fat elimination, nutrition standards for school meals, food tax reform, controls on the marketing of high fat, salt and sugar foods and alcohol to children and young people, and front of pack labelling in order to safeguard the health and economic development, nationally and internationally,” said Paul Lincoln of the UK-based National Heart Forum.


  • World leaders need to demonstrate their dedication to public health nutrition as they have already begun to do for tobacco control. Leaders fall short when they white-wash ineffective food industry promises, and duck specifics on regulatory reform while backward-looking World Trade Organization rules (and Codex Alimentarius Commission nutrition standards) tie the hands of national governments,” said Bill Jeffery of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest-Canada and the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations.


  • The United Nations needs a sensible, evidence-based and experience-informed code of conduct to ensure that commercial operations in food, alcohol, drug and other industries do not impair progress or the effectiveness of NCD prevention policies, said Dr. Kate Allen of the World Cancer Research Fund International.


  • Manufacturers and distributors of alcohol beverages are bound to continue to promote their vested interests by supporting ineffective ‘educational’ programs and obstructing the implementation of effective legislative measures such as tax increases and advertising restrictions, said Derek Rutherford, Chair of Global Alcohol Policy Alliance.


  • The multitude of 140, and counting, public interest groups calling for safeguards against conflicts of interest cannot be ignored, and citizens in any country don't have to be experts in good governance to know that the fox belongs outside the hen house,” said Patti Rundall of the International Baby Food Action Network. “Having industry at the table can be ruinous for consensus on public health priority-setting, and virtually guarantees the lowest and most useless common denominator,” she added.


  • At this summit we have the ridiculous state of affairs whereby representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and the food and drink industry will be speaking as civil society. The WHO needs to clearly recognise the differences between industry lobbyists and pubic interest NGOs and develop meaningful rules to manage the potential conflicts of interest that arise when engaging with the private sector,” said Indrani Thuraisingham, Consumers International.


  •  Sky-high rates of obesity and overweight among children and adults in developed countries are spreading to many emerging economies with calorie-dense, nutrient-poor salty, sugary, fatty foods. Meek requests for further voluntary forbearance by the food, drink, and advertising industries are no substitute for regulatory limits on advertising to children,” said Professor Shiriki Kumanyika.

Scots drinking at higher levels

1st September 2011
Retail sales data indicate people in Scotland drinking 2 litres more pure alcohol per adult than people in England in 2010. New analysis of alcohol retail sales figures by NHS Health Scotland also confirms the growing trend towards home drinking with on-sales alcohol purchases dropping by 28% between 1994 and 2010 and off-trade purchases going up by 52% over the same period.

The higher volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland is driven by higher off-trade sales of spirits, particularly cheap vodka. Given that Scotland also experiences a higher level of alcohol-related harm than England, this evidence suggests that setting a minimum price for alcohol will be an effective measure in Scotland for reducing alcohol consumption and harm.

For more information go to: http://www.healthscotland.com/documents/5435.aspx

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