The Health Minister has announced plans to initiate a full consultation on Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol in Northern Ireland.
Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) is when a minimum price for alcohol sets the lowest price an alcoholic drink can be sold for. This means alcohol can’t legally be sold for lower than that. The more alcohol a drink contains, the stronger it is and therefore the higher the minimum unit price.
Minimum unit pricing is not a tax; it is seen as a targeted way of making sure alcohol is sold at a sensible price.
The Minister said: “The impact of alcohol misuse is being felt by too many families and communities across Northern Ireland daily. We need to consider fully every option available to us to reduce this blight on our society. A review of the current Alcohol and Drugs Strategy was undertaken in 2019 and indicated that alcohol-related deaths continued to rise over the course of the strategy and alcohol-related admissions to hospital also increased from 9573 in 2008/09 to 11,636 in 2016/17. The impact alcohol has on our health service is clear and we must try to address the issue.”
Efforts in Scotland
On 1st May 2018 Scotland introduced minimum unit pricing for alcohol, which currently stands at 50p per unit.
Alcohol in Scotland was viewed as too affordable prior to the introduction of MUP. In 2017, alcohol sold in the UK was 64% more affordable than it was in 1980. It was possible to buy the lower-risk weekly drinking guidelines amount of 14 units for around £2.50. With minimum unit pricing, this now can’t be legally sold for less than £7.
Studies estimated that over the first five-year period of minimum unit pricing there will be:
- 400 fewer alcohol-related deaths
- 8,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions
As mentioned earlier, the Alcohol and Drugs Strategy undertaken in 2019 highlighted several positive points:
- the proportion of adults drinking above the recommended guidelines has reduced (from 26% in 2010/11 to 20% in 2017/18)
- there were significant reductions in the proportion of young people who had ever consumed alcohol (55% in 2007 to 32% in 2016)
- the proportion of young people who had ever been intoxicated fell (55% in 2007 to 45% in 2016) and
- the percentage of adults who binge drink also reduced over the course of the strategy (38% in 2005 to 31% in 2013)
In his conclusions, Minister Swann said: “I have been closely following the Scottish Government introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing on Alcohol since 2018 and have been noting with interest the early positive evaluation reports. As part of the strategy, there will be a commitment to holding a full public consultation on the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol in Northern Ireland within one year.”
Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol’s impact on your body starts from the moment you take your first sip. While an occasional glass of wine or beer isn’t a cause for concern, the cumulative effects of drinking wine, beer, or spirits can take its toll.
Consumption of alcohol can impact various parts of the body. Effects can range from weakening of the immune and digestive system, to inflammation and sugar level issues.
Our ‘Effects Of’ Series provides educational posters that can be displayed in workplaces to highlight the dangers of alcohol. Click here for more information.
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