Scotland has led the world by becoming the first country to implement a minimum unit price for alcohol, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The first minister hailed the policy, designed to cut alcohol-related harm, as “bold and brave” as it was finally brought in across the country on Tuesday.
The minimum 50p (90c) per unit price, delayed for six years by a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association, has been welcomed by the medical professional and health campaigners as the biggest breakthrough in public health since the ban on smoking in public.
It is estimated the move could save about 392 lives in the first five years of its implementation in Scotland, where on average there are 22 alcohol-specific deaths every week and 697 hospital admissions.
The misuse of alcohol is thought to cost Scotland £3.6 billion each year, or £900 for every adult in the country.
“Scotland is the first country in the world that is being bold enough and brave enough to implement minimum unit pricing,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“The eyes of the world will very much be on Scotland, not just today but as the benefits of this policy start to be seen and felt.
“All of the evidence says that minimum unit pricing will reduce deaths from alcohol-related illnesses, reduce hospital admissions and generally reduce the damage that alcohol misuse does to our society.”
The Scottish government has faced calls to go further with policies to tackle the issue, including by increasing the minimum unit price and backing further curbs on the marketing or availability of alcohol.
Ms Sturgeon said the government remained “very open-minded to policy ideas”.
Tory member of the Scottish Parliament Miles Briggs said his party would “await with interest” the impact of the policy.
Labour’s Anas Sarwar welcomed the move but said a “comprehensive, fully funded strategy to tackle problem drinking” was needed.