UK Coast
November 4, 2016

Doctors urge action against alcohol price discounting

Ministers have been urged to set a national target for cutting alcohol consumption by 10 per cent over the next decade.

Health campaigners and doctors made the plea in a report examining the “devastating effect” of alcohol.

Alcohol Focus Scotland, one of the organisations behind the report, said the government now had a blueprint to “improve the lives of millions of Scots, make our communities better and safer places to live, and reduce demand on our over-burdened public services”.

The report makes more than 40 suggestions, including the “overarching recommendation” that the Scottish government adopt a national target of cutting alcohol consumption by at least 10 per cent over the next ten years.

The report said: “Such a target would provide a clear goal for all of those with an interest in preventing and reducing alcohol consumption and harm.”

Reducing drinking by such a level could “potentially deliver a 20 per cent reduction in deaths and hospital admissions after 20 years”, it added.

The report, published by Alcohol Focus Scotland, the British Medical Association Scotland, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs, and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, also called for a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol to be implemented “as soon as legally possible”. Holyrood has passed legislation to bring in minimum pricing but a legal challenge to the policy has halted its implementation. The case will be heard at the Supreme Court in London.

Other recommendations include a ban on all alcohol price discounting, and restrictions on licensing hours.

Ministers were urged to consider “mechanisms for reducing accessibility in off-sales”, such as requiring stores selling alcohol to have separate areas or checkouts for this, and banning the sale of alcohol at self-service checkouts.

On pricing, the report urges the Scottish government to press ministers in Westminster to create a new tax band for strong ciders and similar drinks, “significantly increasing the rate at which these drinks are taxed to reflect their alcohol content”.

Alison Douglas, of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Minimum unit pricing will hopefully be introduced next year, but further action is required to turn off the tap of alcohol harm.”

Aileen Campbell, Scotland’s public health minister, said she welcomed the report and would consider the recommendations before updating the government’s alcohol strategy.