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Scottish multi-buy promotions ban has not hit alcohol sales says new study

Published:  26 November, 2013

Banning multi-buy promotions for alcohol has failed to hit alcohol sales in Scotland, according to a new academic study.


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Banning multi-buy promotions for alcohol has failed to hit alcohol sales in Scotland, according to a new academic study.

Researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit - a collaboration between Cambridge and University of East Anglia universities - has found that the promotions ban, implemented in Scotland in October 2011 as part of the Alcohol Act 2010, has not had the impact it was intended to have.

The ban was introduced to try and curb drinking levels in Scotland by stopping retailers running promotions such as "2 for £8" and "buy-one-get-one-free".

But by using household purchasing data from retail analysts, Kantar's WorldPanel, it found that the data, based on sales in June 2012, "showed no evidence that the ban of multi-buy reduced the purchasing of beer, cider, wine, spirits, and flavoured alcohol drinks". In addition, sad the report, "it did not reduce the total amount of units of alcohol purchased".

The findings also reveal that Scottish consumers "started buying fewer products per shopping trip than they would have done without the ban, but went out to buy beer and cider more frequently, leaving the overall amount purchased unchanged".

Dr Ryota Nakamura from UEA's Norwich Medical School said: "The industry appears to have responded to the ban by replacing multi-buy with simple price reduction, which made it possible for Scottish consumers to buy alcohol at a discounted price but with a smaller financial outlay. This might have mitigated the intended effects of the policy."

Prof Theresa Marteau, from the University of Cambridge, said: "This study provides timely evidence on the seeming ineffectiveness of an intervention designed to reduce alcohol consumption."

Prof Marc Suhrcke, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, added: "More encompassing policy will be needed to achieve the goal of reducing excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. Partially banning price promotions leaves the door open for industry to just switch to other forms of price promotions, or indeed to reduce the overall price of alcohol. Imposing greater excise duties on alcohol and introducing minimum unit pricing have been shown to reduce alcohol consumption and associated harms. The government has recently put on hold plans to introduce minimum unit pricing."

'Impact on alcohol purchasing of a ban on multi-buy promotions: a quasi-experimental evaluation comparing Scotland with England and Wales' by Nakamura R, Suhrcke M, Pechey R, Morciano M, Roland M, and Marteau TM is published in the journal Addiction.