Scotland Plans to Raise Minimum Cost of Alcohol

Price expected to go up 30% to combat steep rise in alcohol-related deaths
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2024 3:07 PM CST
Scotland Plans to Raise Minimum Cost of Alcohol
The change would bring the minimum cost of a typical bottle of red wine from $5.91 to $7.67.   (Getty Images/Stockah)

Six years after Scotland brought in the first minimum alcohol price measure in the UK to curb heavy drinking, the government is planning to hike the price per unit from 50 pence to 65 pence, around 82 cents. Researchers say the measure has been effective over the years but inflation has started to soften its impact and 50 pence in 2018 is the equivalent of around 41 pence today, the BBC reports. According to the NHS, a small shot of spirits is one unit, and a pint of strong beer is around three units. Under the planned change, the minimum cost of a standard bottle of whisky would rise from around $17.60 to just over $23.

Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have surged 25% over the last three years, while the number of people using alcohol treatment services has fallen 40% over the last 10 years, the Guardian reports. Health campaigners have been pushing for the minimum price to go up, while alcohol industry groups are calling for the system to be scrapped, saying it is ineffective and unfair to responsible drinkers. But the industry hasn't done badly out of it: Researchers estimate that retailers make almost $40 million a year in excess profits from minimum pricing.

In a report last year, the World Health Organization praised Scotland's policy, saying there is a "direct connection between the affordability of alcohol, how much alcohol is consumed, and the harm it causes to individuals, families, and society." The WHO said the system helped to prevent deaths and hospitalizations by raising the prices of "the cheapest, strongest products, which heavier drinkers tend to purchase." (More Scotland stories.)

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