The U.K.'s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Scotland can impose minimum prices on alcohol, a move long opposed by the Scotch Whisky Association. The ruling marks the first time a country has established minimum price rules for alcohol.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "Absolutely delighted that minimum pricing has been upheld by the Supreme Court. This has been a long road — and no doubt the policy will continue to have its critics — but it is a bold and necessary move to improve public health."
The ruling will allow the government to set a minimum price of 50 pence ($0.66) per "unit," which is defined as 10 milliliters of pure alcohol. A pint of strong lager or a large glass of wine may contain more than three such units of alcohol.
The move was seen as necessary by many public officials in Scotland due to the country's high alcoholism rate. According to Alcohol Focus Scotland, a charity that combats the harmful effects of alcohol, 1 in 4 Scots drink at "hazardous or harmful" levels, and Scots buy 20 percent more alcohol on average than their English or Welsh counterparts. The organization says that the maximum recommended weekly alcohol intake — 14 units — could be purchased for as little as 2.52 pounds ($3.31).
Ministers supporting the law said that a price increase on the cheapest alcohol was needed to address Scotland's "unhealthy relationship with drink." The price increase will be across the board, affecting not only cheap spirits but wine, ciders and beers as well.
The Scotch Whisky Association, a trade group, said it has accepted the ruling, though it previously argued that it was an unfair restriction on trade and that alcoholism could be better tackled by other means.