Scottish minimum unit pricing evaluation shows 13.4% reduction in deaths

Posted on: 4th April 2023

The British Liver Trust has campaigned as part of the Alcohol Health Association and alongside Alcohol Focus Scotland and SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) in support of the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP). More recently, we have advocated for an increase in MUP from 50p to 65p in Scotland.

We are delighted to read in the latest Lancet review that MUP in Scotland had reduced deaths by 13.4%. Hospitalisations have also decreased by 4·1%. MUP has driven significant improvements in chronic outcomes, particularly for alcohol-related liver disease. This means around 150 deaths and 400 hospitalisations, wholly attributable to alcohol consumption, were averted each year due to MUP.

The Lancet evaluation also found MUP was also associated with a reduction in deaths and hospitalisations in the four most socioeconomically deprived deciles in Scotland.

Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said;

“Minimum unit pricing has been a real success and shows how controversial and difficult decisions by government can reduced deaths and hospitalisations from liver disease and reduce alcohol harm. The Lancet evaluation shows MUP in Scotland has saved 150 lives and 400 hospitalisations each year.

Scotland has led the way in introducing MUP and the evaluation in The Lancet provides further clear evidence that the policy works and is saving lives.”

Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said;

“The Public Health Scotland study on Minimum Unit Pricing in Scotland paints a very positive picture for the effectiveness of MUP. It strengthens the wealth of research already out there that shows MUP works to save lives, reduces pressure on the healthcare system and lessens the growing health inequality gap.

Yet in England, alcohol is still being sold at pocket money prices with alcohol related deaths reaching record highs. We are still without MUP in England and are rapidly falling behind Scotland and Wales in the race to tackle the alcohol harm crisis.

The UK Government must introduce this life-saving policy and bring us up to speed with our neighbours. The data and evidence are there, it cannot be ignored it any longer.”

Pricing policies and taxation are among the most effective public health measures that policymakers can use to reduce alcohol harm. MUP is the most effective policy instrument to target the highest risk drinkers and reduce alcohol consumption in this group[1]. MUP has dramatically reduced sales of very cheap, high strength products linked to harmful drinking. White cider sales in Scotland fell by 15.2% in the first year of MUP and rose by 9.3% over the same period in England.

Since the introduction of MUP in Scotland, alcohol consumption per head in Scotland has dropped to its lowest level for 26 years.

[1]No place for cheap alcohol: the potential value of minimum pricing for protecting lives (