Alcohol campaigners have said that a new study showing minimum pricing is less effective at targeting problem drinking in women backs their call to raise it further.

Research by Glasgow University found alcohol pricing policies – such as duty increases and minimum unit pricing (MUP) – appear to be more effective at reducing consumption and harm in men than women.

Scotland was the first country in the world to implement the policy for all alcohol sales in May 2018 after years of delays from legal challenges.

It targeted low cost, high strength products, seen as a source of problem drinking, by setting a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol and there are plans to review it in April 2024.

It is known that on average men drink and spend about twice as much on alcohol than women, and have just over twice the rates of hospital admissions.

READ MORE: Alcohol tax freeze "huge relief" for hospitality firms facing Brexit-related coffee and wine price increases 

The research, found that each of the three policies modelled – a 10% duty increase, and minimum unit prices (MUP) of £0.50 and £0.70 per UK unit – would lead to larger estimated reductions in consumption and hospital admission rates among men than women.

For women, only a MUP of £.70 is estimated to produce large reductions in hospital admissions, but even for women who drink heavily the effect on harm is much smaller than for men. Women were more likely to drink wine, which was not impacted as much as other drinks by the policy.

It found that women living in deprived areas were more likely to spend more on alcohol and cut down less while men modestly reduced how much they spent but substantially cut down on their consumption.

Overall, a £0.50 MUP is expected to lead to a sevenfold larger reduction in consumption and a three times larger reduction in hospital admissions for men compared to women. 

The Scottish Government is carrying out a number of studies looking at the impact of minimum alcohol pricing. Figures show there has been a decrease in alcohol related deaths in the past decade but numbers are higher in Scotland, compared to the rest of the UK.

The study, which also involved academics from Sheffield University, is the first to estimate whether alcohol pricing policies have different effects on women and men’s alcohol drinking and health.

"Before our study we had no evidence on whether some of the most discussed policy options, alcohol duty and minimum pricing policies, work differently for men and women.

Alcohol Focus Scotland has called for the 50p unit level to be increased ahead of 2024 saying that the “impact of the current rate is likely to have been eroded due to inflation” and said this latest research backed this argument.

Chief executive Alison Douglas said: "MUP is a targeted policy with the evaluation so far showing a positive impact on overall consumption, but particularly amongst poorer, heavier drinkers who suffer the most harm.

"This research adds to that picture as it suggests that MUP has a greater benefit on men, who are twice as likely as women to drink at levels which harm their health, more likely to be admitted to hospital and more like to die because of alcohol.

“At its current level, the research suggests MUP has a lesser impact on the harms experienced by women, partly as they tend to drink wine, the price of which was less affected by price changes.

"This study highlights that while the current 50p minimum unit price leads to overall decreases in consumption and hospital visits, a higher minimum price would bring greater benefits to both men and women."

Paul Waterson, spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said it was a long-standing supporter of minimum unit pricing but suggested it was prudent to wait until the conclusion of government studies before considering changes to the policy.

He said: "I think we should have a protocol for under what circumstances it goes up or indeed what circumstances it would come down - there is no protocol for that."

READ MORE: New study shows cigarette style warnings on alcohol could help increase awareness of the health risks 

Petra Meier, lead author of the study and Professor of Public Health at the University of Glasgow, said: "Before our study we had no evidence on whether some of the most discussed policy options, alcohol duty and minimum pricing policies, work differently for men and women.

“Our modelling suggests that men’s drinking and risk of alcohol-related hospital admissions would decrease substantially more than women’s for both duty increases and minimum unit pricing policies.

“This is important to know because policy makers want to avoid deepening existing health inequalities.

"If policy makers know that pricing policies are likely to have greater effects on men than women then they can decide if this is desirable.

"For example in the UK, one might argue that policies are well targeted because rates of alcohol-related harm are much higher in men than women.

"On the other hand, the smaller effects on consumption and implications for household budgets when female heavy drinkers increase their spending on alcohol may be seen as a concern."

READ MORE: Campaigners want mimimum alcohol pricing review despite figures showing deaths decline in Scotland 

The study used the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model to study the impact of three alcohol price policies on adults over 18 in England: a 10% duty increase and minimum unit prices (MUP) of £0.50 and £0.70 per UK unit.

The study, ‘Alcohol policy and gender: a modelling study estimating gender-specific effects of alcohol pricing policies’ is published in Addiction.