Northern Ireland and Wales proceed with Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing

  • Minimum Unit Price for alcohol would save 63 lives in NI and 53 lives in Wales each year
  • Policy would reduce hospital admissions in NI by more than 2,400 and 1,400 in Wales

The Welsh Government has today (8 December 2014) announced it will proceed with an Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing policy, which could reduce drink-related hospital admissions in Wales by more than 1,400 a year, according to researchers from the University of Sheffield.

The announcement comes just five days after the Northern Ireland Executive also confirmed it was proceeding with the policy.

Earlier this week the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG) published a new report, commissioned by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and the Department for Social Development (DSD) in Northern Ireland, which revealed that introducing a Minimum Unit Price (MUP) in Northern Ireland would reduce alcohol related deaths by 63 per year and save healthcare services £1.8 million within the first 12 months and £400 million over 20 years.

Today's announcement follows the publication of the Your Health Matters White Paper on Public Health in April this year, which proposed introducing a 50 pence Minimum Unit Price for alcohol in Wales.

The report, from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group (SARG), estimates that introducing a 50p Minimum Unit Price (MUP) in Wales would reduce alcohol related deaths by 53 per year and save healthcare services £131 million over 20 years.

The findings, from experts at the University’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) whose research has been influential in providing evidence to inform policy decisions in the UK and beyond, also reveal the policy would lead to an estimated reduction in alcohol consumption by the overall population of 4.0 per cent, which equates to 30 units per drinker, per year. However, this effect is unevenly spread across the population.

The policy would have negligible effects on alcohol expenditure amongst the majority of drinkers who consume at moderate levels – for example, the research forecasts a 50p MUP would mean paying an extra £2.37 per year for moderate drinkers who are expected to reduce their consumption by 6.4 units annually. This equates to approximately three pints of beer or two large glasses of wine, less per year.

The effects on moderate drinkers living below the poverty level are smaller with just an additional £2.15 per year estimated to be spent on alcohol as a result of the policy.

However, the policy would target harmful drinkers effectively with those at high risk, who spend almost £3,000 per year on alcohol, expected to reduce their drinking by 293 units a year (equivalent to approximately 150 pints of beer or 10 bottles of wine per year) as a result of a 50p MUP.

Dr Lucy Gell, one of the authors of the report, said: “These results show that as in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, a minimum unit price would lead to substantial reductions in alcohol-related harm. It would do so without penalising moderate drinkers as it targets the cheap alcohol disproportionately purchased by the heaviest drinkers.

“Minimum unit pricing would not affect the price of a pint in the pub but would prevent shops and supermarkets selling large quantities of alcohol at very low cost.”

The Government of Northern Ireland announced it would be proceeding with its policy to introduce an MUP policy last week.

The same researchers from ScHARR have previously shown that introducing a 50p MUP would be substantially more effective in tackling problems caused by cheap drinks than the “negligible effects” associated with the ban on below cost selling policy which was introduced in England and Wales by the UK Government in May 2014.

The same researchers from ScHARR have previously shown that introducing a 50p MUP would be substantially more effective in tackling problems caused by cheap drinks than the negligible effects associated with the ban on below cost selling policy which was introduced in England and Wales by the UK Government in May 2014.

Additional information

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