Action needed on cheap alcohol - NHS Scotland

Action needed on cheap alcohol - NHS Scotland

Health officials have used a report showing that adults in Scotland drink a quarter more alcohol than the UK average to up the pressure for price controls on drinks sales.

Scottish adults drank around two extra pints of beer per week than the average UK drinker between 2004 and 2009 and the gap is widening, according to a report by the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland.

A second report, also published by NHS Scotland today (21 July), flagged up cheap drinks offers in supermarkets and off-licences as the main reason for excess consumption in the country.

Health officials seized on the reports to reinforce pressure on the Government to act on drinks pricing.

"These findings underline the need for action on cheap off-sales alcohol in Scotland," said Dr Laurence Gruer, director of public health science at NHS Scotland.

"It’s by no means the only action needed, but the research shows clearly that nothing else is as effective as raising the price of alcohol.”   
More than half of vodka sold in Scotland's off-trade was available for less than GBP0.35 (US$0.53) per alcohol unit, while a quarter of cider was on sale for less than GBP0.2 per unit, according to the report.

The average price of alcohol in the on-trade was GBP1.31 per unit, while this was only GBP0.43 in the off-trade, which accounts for two thirds of alcohol sales in Scotland.

Scotland's ruling National Party supports a minimum price for drinks, but it has so far failed to gain enough support for the policy in the Scottish Parliament. The country has devolved powers from the UK Parliament in Westminster to set its own alcohol strategy.

The UK's new Coalition Government has publicly backed a ban on alcohol sales 'below cost', but has rejected a base price on drinks. It intends to introduce legislation on this by autumn 2011 at the latest.

For the full NHS Scotland reports, click here.