The Scottish government has unveiled proposals to place a minimum price on alcoholic drinks of 45p per unit, the Guardian reports.
Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said setting a minimum price was essential to tackle the high death toll and health burden from alcohol abuse in Scotland, where people drink 25% more on average than people in the rest of the UK.
"For too long, too many Scots have been drinking themselves into an early grave," Sturgeon said. "It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has plummeted in recent decades, alcohol-related deaths, disease, crime and disorder have spiralled. It cannot be right that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit for less than £3.50."
Setting a minimum price on alcohol of 45p per unit would double or treble the cost of some super-strength ciders. It would also raise the cost of vodka by nearly £4 a bottle and whiskey by £3.40 a bottle.
Sturgeon argues this would immediately save about 50 lives a year, cut hospital admissions by 1,200 a year and mean nearly 23,000 fewer days lost from work in the first year. Within a decade, nearly 225 lives a year would be saved.
Scotland's chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns, and the British Medical Association both support setting a minimum price on alcohol.
Burns said: "Scotland has an unenviable reputation when it comes to alcohol. We are, sadly, world-class when it comes to damaging our health through heavy drinking."
While a spokesperson for the BMA said: "There is strong scientific evidence that increasing price reduces rates of alcohol-related problems, particularly among young people.
"We have consistently called for a minimum price per unit as part of a raft of measures to tackle alcohol abuse and would urge the other UK governments to follow the example set by Scotland."
The Scotch Whisky Association unsurprisingly has come out against setting a minimum price. "The Scottish government's scheme fails to meet the basic tests of EU [competition] law and will do little to address alcohol misuse," said Gavin Hewitt, the SWA's chief executive.
- Scottish government to tackle alcohol abuse with price hike (The Guardian)
- British pubs and brewers call for 'fairer' alcohol tax system (The Solicitor)
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