A new report shows that introducing the minimum unit price (MUP) has led to fewer alcohol-related deaths in Scotland compared to the UK.
MUP was introduced in 2018 and stipulated a minimum charge of 50p for each unit of alcohol.
Studies published in The Lancet estimated that the policy had prevented 156 deaths a year since then.
When comparing data between Scotland and England, the researchers tried to account for factors such as Covid and the complex causes of alcohol-related death.
This leads to research’s best estimates of a ‘significant’ 13.4% decrease in alcohol-related deaths in Scotland between May 2018 and December 2020.
This estimate came from researchers who compared alcohol-related deaths in Scotland with estimates using data from the UK on fatalities that would have occurred had the MUP law not been implemented.
The researchers also found that the decline in alcohol-related deaths was most significant for men and those living in the poorest 40% of Scotland.
The study, by researchers from Public Health Scotland (PHS), the University of Glasgow, and the University of Queensland, Australia, included estimates of the deaths that could have been prevented due to the flagship MUP policy.
The number of recorded alcohol-related deaths in Scotland has generally increased since 2012.
A full review of the MUP, which also considers consumption levels and economic impact, will be published later this year.
Dr. Grant Wiper, the public health adviser at PHS, said: “The results show that the reductions are most significant for men and people living in the poorest 40% of areas, the group known to be at risk of experiencing disproportionate levels of harmful alcohol in Scotland.
“We know that people living in the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas of Scotland are more than five times more likely to experience an alcohol-related death than those living in the poorest areas.
“Therefore, the published results are encouraging for addressing this inequality and the overall level of avoidable harm affecting too many people.”
The report’s authors acknowledged several study limitations, including the impact on hospital capacity and attendance during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Scottish Parliament will vote on whether or not to proceed with the MUP before May 1 next year.