Iconic recently completed in-depth qualitative research for NHS Health Scotland (now part of Public Health Scotland) and Scottish Government to assess any change in young people’s alcohol consumption and related behaviours following the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) legislation in May 2018.
The research involved depth interviews with 50 young people aged 13 to 17 who were drinking before and after legislation was introduced to set the minimum retail price of a unit of alcohol at 50 pence. We also gathered the views of 21 adults who work with young people including youth workers, support workers, and guidance teachers. Our report was published in January 2020 and it forms part of a robust programme to assess the impact of MUP which will inform the future of the legislation.
The interviews with young people found that MUP did not impact on their acquisition, consumption or related behaviours, either positively or negatively. Many of the products favoured by the young people were, on average, already being sold above 50 pence per unit before MUP was introduced. The study found that money and price changes were not perceived to be barriers to drinking by the young people interviewed. The price of alcohol was not seen as an important factor in their drinking behaviour, and overall they did not report changing what they drank, how much they drank or how they obtained their alcohol, in response to price alone. Despite a limited awareness of the implementation of MUP, the young people interviewed report being largely price aware, and had observed changes in product price, and to a lesser extent changes in product availability. The study found no reported changes in the extent or nature of alcohol-related harms amongst the young people interviewed, following the introduction of MUP.
Our findings were widely reported in the media including several newspaper articles and radio coverage. We subsequently presented our findings via a Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) webinar, while NHS Health Scotland presented the findings at the 6th Global Alcohol Policy Conference.