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UK: Scotland's multi-buy ban under fire from health chiefs

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Health experts have branded Scotland's ban on multi-buy alcohol promotions “ineffective” after more research showing that the measure has not affected sales. 

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The Scottish Government, which introduced the ban in October 2011 to tackle “irresponsible” off-trade promotions, insisted at the time the move would cut alcohol consumption. But a new study, published today (26 November), offers more evidence the measure has not achieved its aim. 

The study, a collaboration between East Anglia and Cambridge universities, looked at household purchasing data up until June 2012. The researchers claimed there was “no evidence” to suggest the laws affected sales in any alcohol categories, or cut the amount of units purchased. The data also showed that the averge frequency of shopping trips rose by 9.2% post-ban, compared to shopping patterns in England and Wales. 

A report earlier this year from Health Scotland also showed the ban had had little effect. 

Dr Ryota Nakamura from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, and the lead author of today's report, said: “The industry appears to have responded to the ban by replacing multi-buy with simple price reduction, which made it possible for Scottish consumers to buy alcohol at a discounted price but with a smaller financial outlay. This might have mitigated the intended effects of the policy.”

Prof Theresa Marteau, another of the authors, said: “This study provides timely evidence on the seeming ineffectiveness of an intervention designed to reduce alcohol consumption.” 

In a statement to just-drinks today, WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “The report makes crystal clear that a multi-buy ban doesn’t work and confirms that the UK Government was right not to introduce a similar ban. There is no clear link between restricting promotions, price and consumption."

Plans for Scotland to introduce a minimum price per unit on alcohol are currently on hold, due to an on-going legal challenge by the drinks industry


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