What impact, if any, will minimum pricing of alcohol have on the trends of alcohol misuse amongst teenagers and young people in Scotland?
Acknowledgment and thanks are given to the management at Liber8 Lanarkshire who agreed to contribute to the research undertaken for this report and provided valuable insight into the topic in question.
In 2009 “Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action” was published by the Scottish Government outlining the ways in which it hoped to combat the various health and social problems which exist as a result of the attitudes towards alcohol in Scotland today, highlighting “the need to take action to rebalance Scotland’s relationship with alcohol…to maximise our potential as individuals, families, communities, and as a country” (Scottish Government, 2009, p.5). Amongst the many recommendations of how this can be achieved, introducing a minimum price for the sale of alcohol was one which it was proposed should be enshrined in law; consequently, The Alcohol Minimum Pricing (Scotland) Act (2012) was passed by the Scottish Parliament. The aim of this report is to assess how this legislation will impact upon young people in Scotland and their attitudes towards alcohol. It is intended this end shall be met through examining current relevant research, considering comparative international studies, and with reference to an interview (Appendix 1) with a senior manager from a community based project designed to engage with this issue (in order to adhere to recognised ethical practice and confidentiality the interviewee will remain anonymous, but has given full consent to allow all comments and remarks to be used in reference to the topic being discussed as part of this report). It is hoped the most significant effect of this measure of control will be reduced alcohol consumption. It has long been known how damaging excessive use or misuse of alcohol can be to a person’s health, however, as outlined within the aforementioned Scottish Government framework, it is necessary to tackle the wider social issues also. The “Independent Review of the Effects of Alcohol Pricing and Promotion”, a study by the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield (ScHARR), outlined the positive impact such a policy can have upon those issues directly associated with excessive and irresponsible alcohol consumption. It determined there is a correlation between price increases and demand for alcohol, establishing increased pricing directly corresponds to a reduction in harm from alcohol misuse. Significantly, it also found that the availability of cheap alcohol is particularly attractive to harmful drinkers and young people (Booth et al, 2008).
Effects of Alcohol Misuse
Since 1980 alcohol has become 70% more affordable contributing to a rise in consumption of 19% in the last twenty years (Scottish Government, 2009). It is calculated that around 50% of men and 30% of women throughout Scotland regularly exceed recommended weekly guidelines for the amount of alcohol which should be consumed, outlined by the Chief Medical Officer as 21 units and 14 units of alcohol respectively (Scottish Government, 2009). This has resulted in almost 40,000 hospital discharges related directly to injuries and illnesses associated with alcohol in 2009-10, as well as doubling the alcohol associated mortality rate since the end of the 1980’s (NHS Scotland, 2010).
The consequences for the health of the population as a result of the culture of drinking in Scotland today may worsen, as indicated by a study carried out by the journal Paediatrics. Across six European countries including Scotland this study undertook to discover how young people were influenced by their exposure to alcohol in movies, and indicated around 35 % of children in Scotland had “binge” drank at least once by the age of 13 (for the purposes of the...
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