Scotland’s government policies have had a positive effect on alcohol consumption in Scotland. According to a new report by NHS Health Scotland, the ban on multi-buy drinks promotions was among a number of successful initiatives.
Despite the success, NHS Health Scotland warned that more needed to be done to ensure that these improvements continued. Among the advocated policies in the report is the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol.
The report is the final review of the Scottish government’s alcohol strategy, which was introduced in 2009.
The government’s 2009 “framework for action” outlined 41 steps to reduce alcohol consumption, and support families and communities. The key policy – a minimum price for alcohol – has not yet been implemented because it is subject to a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association.
Clare Beeston, from NHS Health Scotland, said to the BBC: “The picture has improved but levels of alcohol-related harm remain high – on average 22 people in Scotland die every week because of alcohol.”
Beeston also said: “We need to continue to push for the most effective ways to reduce the amount of alcohol Scotland drinks,” adding that “these are to reduce the affordability, availability and promotion of alcohol.”
Among the improvements described in the report are:
-The ban on multi-buy promotions in 2011 was associated with a 2.6% reduction in off-trade sales
-Improved awareness of the harm that alcohol causes in Scotland.
Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said to the BBC: “… harm rates are still higher than they were 20 years ago and higher than in England and Wales, so now is not the time to be complacent.”
She added: “The report also recognises that a key element of the alcohol framework – minimum unit pricing – has yet to be implemented due to a legal challenge from parts of the alcohol industry and this has impacted on the progress made.”
The pleas for further measures follow on last month’s call by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) for the introduction of alcohol-only check-outs and a ban of alcohol advertising. Specifically concerning alcohol advertising SHAAP asked for a target date to be made for the prohibition of all alcohol advertising, except in licensed premises, with an immediate ban in sports-related settings, including sponsorship.