Scotland has become the first country in the world to implement minimum unit pricing for alcohol as of today.
New legislation brought into force sets a minimum 50 pence per unit price to tackle the damage caused by cheap, high strength alcohol.
Research shows that the move is expected to save 392 lives in the first five years of implementation.
Speaking during a visit to a hospital ward treating patients with chronic liver problems, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP said:
“I am extremely proud that the eyes of the world will once again be on Scotland with the introduction of this legislation.
“Our action is bold and it is brave, and shows once again that we are leading the way in introducing innovative solutions to public health challenges.
“It’s no secret that Scotland has a troubled relationship with alcohol. There are, on average, 22 alcohol-specific deaths every week in Scotland, and 697 hospital admissions and behind every one of these statistics is a person, a family, and a community badly affected by alcohol misuse.
“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum unit pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“Having grown up with an alcoholic father, who died at 57 as a direct result of his drinking, I am all too aware of the impact excessive alcohol intake can have on childhoods and families.
“In addition, alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year – that’s £900 for every adult in the country. Scotland also has the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in the UK.
“Evidence shows that most damage is done by cheap, high strength alcohol, which is why this targeted approach is expected to be very effective in saving lives.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said:
“As a nation we drink 40% more than the low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units per week for men and women. Prior to the implementation of minimum unit pricing, those 14 units could be bought for just £2.52. This is absolutely unacceptable.
“That is where this new legislation comes in, and I am confident that over the first five years of its operation, minimum unit pricing will reduce the number of alcohol-specific deaths by hundreds, and hospital admissions by thousands.”