Interviews with young people under 18 years old who reported drinking alcohol found that Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) did not impact on the 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 children and 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.

NHS Health Scotland commissioned Iconic Consulting to investigate the impact of MUP on a group of fifty 13-17 year olds who reported drinking alcohol both before and after the implementation of MUP in Scotland in May 2018. Participants were asked about any changes in the price or availability of what they drink; any changes in their acquisition and consumption of alcohol; their experiences of harm after drinking; and what influences their drinking. The study was designed to help understand the lived experience of the young people who took part. It is not an assessment of the impact of MUP that is representative of all young people in Scotland.

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.

Jane Ford, Principal Public Health Intelligence Advisor at NHS Health Scotland, said:

“At a population level, there is evidence from other countries that pricing policies reduce consumption and alcohol-related harm, but there is less evidence available of the impact of pricing policies on children and young people specifically. This study increases our understanding of the potential impact of the 50 pence per unit minimum unit price, on young people in Scotland’s own drinking and related behaviour.

“Whilst the findings published today show that implementation of MUP was not perceived to affect participant’s consumption, there were no reported negative impacts on alcohol-related harms amongst the children and young people in this study. 

“A number of further studies are due to be undertaken as part of our evaluation, which will assess the impact of MUP on protecting children and young people from harm”.

Ian Clark, Director at Iconic Consulting, said:

“Overall, our findings suggest that the introduction of MUP had limited impact on the alcohol consumption of the children and young people participating in this study, and no reported impact on their related behaviour. This study provides an important understanding of the wider context surrounding those young people’s experiences with alcohol – and it is clear that price is only one factor in the often challenging life circumstances of young people who drink.

“Whilst several of the alcoholic drinks popular with young people were already being sold above 50 pence per unit, where they did observe the price of their favoured drink rise after May 2018 – as was the case before the introduction of MUP – the young people reported being able to fund the additional cost.

“This research highlights that alcohol use amongst children and young people is a complex issue, influenced by a range of factors, which can change as they get older and their experiences and perceptions change”.