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Positive impact of minimum unit pricing for alcohol questioned

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane has written to the UK Statistics Authority calling for an investigation into a Public Health Scotland report which claimed the minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol was having a “positive impact” on health outcomes.

Gulhane, the Scottish shadow health minister and a Conservative MSP, has written to chair of the authority, Sir Robert Chote, after Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf cited the final report in Holyrood last week, and said the policy was “quite literally saving lives”.

According to Gulhane, 32 of the 40 studies mentioned in the report don’t cite the health outcomes of MUP, and a further seven of the other eight studies into health outcomes reached negative or inconclusive verdicts. Only a single study, he claimed, said deaths might have been averted.

The study, which was released last week, showed deaths related to alcohol had reduced by more than 10%, and hospital admissions from direct alcohol consumption fell by 4.1%. It claimed there were approximately 150 fewer deaths on average each year, and 400 fewer hospital admissions, from when the policy was introduced.

But it also said that for those people with alcohol dependence “there was limited evidence of any reduction in consumption and there is some evidence of consequences for those with established alcohol dependence on low incomes, that led them to prioritise spending on alcohol over food”.

Additionally, the report said: “At a population level there is no clear evidence of substantial negative impacts on social harms such as alcohol-related crime or illicit drug use”.

Gulhane wrote: “I am concerned the report and associated publicity and ministerial statements significantly overstate the health impact of MUP, and under-represent the significant uncertainty in the wider body of research and among the scientific community.

“SNP ministers view MUP as the panacea in tackling problem drinking but none of the studies to date have backed up that theory – and neither does this one, despite their desperate spinning.”

No industry impact

The news follows a report in January which found that MUP had no ‘significant impact’ on the Scottish drinks industry.

Concerns had been raised about the impact of the MUP on the alcohol sector prior to its enforcement.

But the report, carried out by Frontier Economics found no significant economic harm to businesses affected in Scotland.

Related news:

Scotland becomes first country to implement minimum unit price for alcohol

Ban on sale of cheap alcohol has cost Scots £270m, new research finds

What does minimum unit pricing mean for the UK drinks trade?

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