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Press release

Queen Margaret University to research effects of alcohol pricing on Scotland’s heaviest drinkers

Edinburgh, November 22 2011 ; Queen Margaret University (QMU) has been awarded a research grant to investigate whether Scotland’s heaviest drinkers will change their habits as a result of the Scottish Government’s alcohol policy that could enforce a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

The research, which is funded by the Chief Scientist Office and Alcohol Research UK, will focus on patients suffering alcohol related illnesses who, it has been shown, tend to buy more of their weekly consumption very cheaply compared to other drinkers in Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s Alcohol Bill includes proposals to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol, which will mostly affect cheap white ciders and low-grade spirits with high alcohol content favoured by problem drinkers. The annual cost of alcohol misuse of alcohol to Scottish business, the NHS, social services, police and courts is estimated to between £2.48 billion and £4.64 billion.

The study will be conducted by researchers Professor Jonathan Chick and Dr Jan Gill, Reader, of the School of Health Sciences at Queen Margaret University. Professor Chick said;“Pricing measures can reduce health harms from alcohol in two ways: by reducing the number s newly recruited into heavy drinking, and by helping to moderate the drinking patterns of already established heavy drinkers. Our research will look at the factors which influence the habits of severe drinkers before and after the introduction of minimum unit pricing. In our pilot study, we established that this group particularly consume cheap ciders and vodka, which might be particularly damaging for brain and liver cells. We will also look at whether they turn to sourcing drink from outside Scotland or begin to consume illicit or substitute alcohols or other intoxicants.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health, Nicola Sturgeon said “We are pleased to be able to support this important piece of independent research, which will provide valuable information on the impact of our proposed legislation. The research is timely and complementary to the Scottish Government Health Directorates’ overall research programme which is in place to monitor and evaluate the impact of our Alcohol Framework.”

The research will be conducted over a three year period in Edinburgh and Glasgow and will focus on around 500 of the hardest to reach group of severe drinkers. This group accounts for many of the hospital admissions and deaths related to alcohol and is under-represented in general survey data.


For information contact Maggie Wright on 0131 226 3622 or 07801 710360



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