Scotland ends cheap booze by setting minimum pricing

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London, May 1 (IANS) The price of cheap, high-strength alcohol increased in Scotland as long-awaited legislation on minimum pricing came into force on Tuesday.

A contested 2012 law that set a floor price for drinks based on their alcohol content officially entered into force, meaning consumers would now have to pay a minimum of 50 pence ($0.68) per unit of alcohol, the BBC reported.

“This will save lives and reduce crime,” Alison Douglas, CEO of the alcoholism prevention group Alcohol Focus Scotland, said. “Half of the crimes committed in Scotland are related to alcohol consumption.”

Cheap drinks such as low-cost fortified wine, multi-pack beers, own-brand whiskey, gin, vodka as well as high-strength white cider will see the biggest rise in prices.

Ministers said the idea was to target booze that attracted problem drinkers. Earlier, a two-litre bottle of strong cider (7.5 alcohol by volume), which contained more than the weekly recommended limit for alcohol (14 units), could be bought for as little as 2.50 pounds. It will now cost at least 7.50 pounds.

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Own brand vodka, gin and whiskey will also rise in price by as much as 3 pounds a bottle, as will some cheap wines and multi-pack beers. According to a research, the move is expected to save 392 lives in the first five years of implementation.

Scotland’s 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.

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“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,” said Sturgeon.

According to Scotland’s Health Secretary Shona Robison, alcohol misuse costs Scotland 3.6 billion pounds ($5 billion) each year and Scotland has the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in the UK.

The measure was first proposed five years ago but has faced a lengthy legal battle by the Scottish Whiskey Association challenging the policy in the courts.

Critics of the legislation said higher prices will unfairly punish responsible drinkers.

–IANS

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