Minimum alcohol pricing could rise within the next two years after the Scottish Government announced a delayed review of current charges.
Campaigners have called for the baseline cost imposed on retailers per unit of alcohol to rise from 50p to 65p among a host of other measures designed to restrict their promotion.
Charity Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) said drinkers were “wallpapered” by adverts promoting the “positive effects” of drinking with little awareness of the risks.
Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) was introduced in 2018 as a means of reducing the ease of access to cheap, high-strength drinks.
A Public Health Scotland (PHS) report on the policy – a flagship promise of Nicola Sturgeon during her time as health minister – found it had actually prompted problem drinkers to cut back on food and utility bills in order to meet rising costs.
However, public health minister Maree Todd said a review of the policy would be completed by the end of 2023 – though no increase in costs will take affect before May of 2024.
She said: “The introduction of MUP for alcohol in Scotland has helped reduce alcohol sales to their lowest since records began.
“I am encouraged by this downward trend in alcohol consumption. However, Scots are still drinking almost 30% more than the low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units per adult per week.
“A review of the current level of 50p per unit was delayed by the pandemic. This extensive exercise is now underway and I can confirm that it will be completed in late 2023.”
AFS called for a ban on alcohol sponsorship of high-profile sporting events, concerts and festivals over fears young people were being “bombarded” by “increasingly sophisticated” advertising extoling the virtues of alcohol.
The charity’s chief executive, Alison Douglas, added: “Children tell us they see alcohol everywhere, all the time and they worry that adverts make alcohol seem cool and exciting.
“People in recovery talk of how marketing jeopardises their recovery. But all of us are affected and this has to change.
“People don’t just have a need to be protected from alcohol marketing they have a right to be protected. If we want to create a more positive culture where everyone can realise their right to health, the Scottish Government must use Scotland’s full powers to restrict alcohol marketing.”