The world’s first experiment with minimum unit pricing for alcohol started in Scotland on 1 May 2018 and initial results have now been reported.
The main reason for the scheme was to curb the availability of very low priced beer, cider and spirits in shops encouraging consumption, especially by problem drinkers, leading to illness and early death – an average of 22 deaths per week.
The minimum price was set at £0.50 per unit, so a 2 unit 50cl can of lager at 4% alcohol by volume cannot be sold below £1 and a 28 unit 70cl bottle of whisky at 40% alcohol by volume must be priced at £14 or more.
A 3 litre bottle of high strength 7.5% alcohol by volume cider used to cost as little as £4 but cannot now be sold less than £11.25.
So, what was the impact ? Actually, not that much, it seems.
• Pure alcohol consumption has fallen 3% since 2017.
• This is faster than an average decline of 1% a year through supermarkets and off-licences since 2010.
• There has been “no real change in what we are choosing to drink”.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that smaller shops are now more competitive, but there has also been an increase in product theft.