Wales introduce minimum alcohol pricing

Wales introduce minimum alcohol pricing

From 2nd March, there was a change in the way alcohol is sold in Wales, with the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP).

Retailers and any outlets serving alcohol must charge at least 50p a unit, meaning a typical bottle of wine costs no less than £4.69. Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said it would tackle “harmful and damaging” drinking of cheap, strong alcohol.

A recent report found that alcohol sales in Scotland had dropped after a similar system was implemented in May 2018. The Public Health Minimum Price for Alcohol Wales Act 2018 forces retailers to use a formula for working out minimum pricing.

What is a unit of alcohol?

  • A unit is 10ml of pure alcohol
  • This is equivalent to half a pint of lower or standard strength beer or cider
  • A single 25ml shot of spirits is approximately one unit
  • A small 125ml glass of wine contains about 1.5 units

What is minimum unit pricing?

Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is a method in setting a baseline price below which no one can sell an alcoholic drink. The price is based on how much alcohol is in each drink. The minimum price that’s being set in Wales is 50p per unit of alcohol. Whether the drink is beer, cider, wine, spirits or any other kind of alcoholic drink; its minimum price will depend on how much alcohol it contains. For example:

  • A standard-strength pint of beer or cider contains around 2.5 units of alcohol, so it can’t be sold in Wales for less than £1.25
  • A bottle of wine has about 10 units of alcohol, so minimum pricing is around £5
  • A bottle of whisky or vodka contains around 26 units and so can’t be sold for less than £13

Why has it been introduced?

Official figures report approximately 500 people die in Wales each year from alcohol-related causes, with 60,000 hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption; adding up to an estimated £159m annual cost to the Welsh NHS.

Dr Sarah Aitken, director of public health for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said the organisation had been supportive of the law change since it was first mooted.

“We see the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on people’s health every day,” she said.

The Welsh government has stated that the rationale for introducing minimum unit pricing is to address the availability of high-strength cheap alcohol. They go further to state that most people won’t notice a change in pricing for most alcoholic drinks, but “high-strength, low-cost” products, such as white cider would be significantly more expensive.

Call for further implementation

With the recent implementation in Wales and Scotland having previously implemented minimum unit pricing, there are calls for the policy to be rolled out across the UK.

Scotland was the first country in the world to implement a minimum unit price for alcohol, following a 10-year campaign by health bodies.

Recent data presented at a conference in Glasgow by British Association for the Study of the Liver (BASL) suggested alcohol-related deaths fell by 21.5%.

Dr Ewan Forrest who presented the results of the research at the conference said there had been a 21.5% reduction in alcohol-related deaths in Glasgow from 2017 to 2018 – from 186, down to 146.

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