Scotland has become the first country in the world to implement minimum unit pricing for alcohol.
New legislation, which came into force today (Tuesday), 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.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon 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.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison added: “We know we need to act now to change people’s attitudes towards alcohol and I am confident that, with the introduction of minimum unit pricing, we are moving in the right direction. Alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year – that’s £900 for every adult in the country.
“Scotland has the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in the UK – from today, I hope we will see that change.”
The move has been welcomed by health professionals. Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “As a nation we drink 40 per cent 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.”
Chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie said: “It has been a long road to reach this point, but I am delighted that the persistence of alcohol campaigners, with strong BMA support, has paid off and minimum unit pricing has finally taken effect.
“Minimum unit pricing is a policy that will help to save lives and reduce alcohol harms in Scotland. It will help to reduce the burden of alcohol on our health service, on Scottish society, and most importantly on individuals and their families.
“This is an important milestone for Scotland, and many other parts of the world will now be watching the implementation of minimum unit pricing with great interest.
“Importantly, the determination with which minimum unit pricing has been pursued also shows that the alcohol industry cannot expect to successfully block policies designed to protect the health of the public.
“Minimum unit pricing can make a significant impact, but we have always been clear that it needs to be part of a broad range of actions to tackle the harms caused by alcohol misuse. As a society we need to be prepared to show the same determination when it comes to taking further action.”