This Feb 28, 2018 photo shows an employee at one of the distillery warehouses at the Auchentoshan Distillery near Glasgow, Scotland, where the oak barrels of whiskey can be stored for up to 25 years before bottling. Scotland became the first place in the world to implement a minimum price for alcohol as new legislation by the Scottish Parliament came into force setting a minimum unit price of 50 pence (US$0.68 cents). (ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)
LONDON - Scotland became the first place in the world to implement a minimum price for alcohol on Tuesday.
From Tuesday, retailers must charge at least 50 pence (US$0.68 cents) per unit under the new legislation by the Scottish Parliament, amounting to about 70 pence for a bottle of beer or 5 pounds for a bottle of wine.
Politicians have imposed the pricing regime to tackle the damage caused by cheap, high strength alcohol, with research showing it is expected to save 392 lives in the first five years of implementation.
The policy will add more than US$4 to the price of a bottle of 700 ml whiskey.
Politicians have imposed the pricing regime to tackle the damage caused by cheap, high strength alcohol
Scotland's Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, "I am extremely proud that the eyes of the world will once again be on Scotland with the introduction of this legislation. Our action is bold and it is brave, and shows once again that we are leading the way in introducing innovative solutions to public health challenges.
"It's no secret that Scotland has a troubled relationship with alcohol. There are, on average, 22 alcohol-specific deaths every week in Scotland, and 697 hospital admissions and behind every one of these statistics is a person, a family, and a community badly affected by alcohol misuse.
"Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum unit pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families."
According to Scotland's Health Secretary Shona Robison, alcohol misuse costs Scotland 3.6 billion pounds (US$5 billion) each year and Scotland has the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in the UK.
The measure was first proposed five years ago but has faced a lengthy legal battle by the Scottish Whiskey Association challenging the policy in the courts. Critics have also said higher prices will unfairly punish responsible drinkers.
Scotland sets its own health policies, and campaigners are pressing for similar action in other parts of the UK. The Alcohol Health Alliance, a coalition of medical groups, says there are almost 23,000 alcohol-related deaths a year in England, which has roughly 10 times Scotland's population of 5 million.
Britain's Home Office said minimum pricing was "under review and the government will consider the evidence of its impact once it is available."Norine Aslam, who runs the Top Cellar liquor store in the Edinburgh suburb of Leith, said she was "all for" the move.
(With additional input from The Associated Press)
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