21 June 2017: New figures published today reveal that enough alcohol is being sold in England and Wales for every drinker to consume 21 units of alcohol a week – far more than the low-risk level of 14 units per week for both men and women recommended by the UK’s chief medical officers.
The figures reveal that the situation is even worse in Scotland, with enough alcohol being sold for every drinker to consume 24 units a week.
The data was released by NHS Health Scotland, who also looked at consumption in England and Wales in order to compare patterns across the UK.
Roughly speaking, a regular-strength pint of beer and a 175ml glass of wine both contain 2 units of alcohol.
To tackle high levels of alcohol-related deaths and illness, Scotland is set to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, which would raise the price of the cheapest alcohol products which do the most harm. The Scottish government passed minimum unit pricing over 5 years ago, though implementation of the measure has so far been delayed due to legal challenges from the alcohol industry.
Minimum unit pricing formed part of the Westminster government’s alcohol strategy in 2012, though has yet to be implemented in England and Wales.
Responding to the publication of the figures, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said:
“These figures are shocking and show why minimum unit pricing is needed in Scotland, as well as in the rest of the UK.
“As a result of the legal challenges from the alcohol industry, lives will undoubtedly have been lost in Scotland. We hope and expect minimum unit pricing to be ruled legal in the final court hearing in this case in July, so that implementation in Scotland can follow.
“If minimum unit pricing is ruled legal in Scotland, a decision by Westminster to delay would be a death sentence for some, including many from the lowest income groups. The evidence is already clear – minimum unit pricing saves lives, prevents illness and lowers hospital admissions.”