Health Minister Robin Swan has launched a new public consultation on introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol in Northern Ireland after the measure went into effect in the republic earlier this month.
South of the border, the minimum drink price is now directly related to the amount of alcohol it contains to reduce the harm from overconsumption.
In 2018, Scotland introduced a minimum unit price, while Wales introduced a minimum unit price of 50p alcohol in 2020.
Stormont has been asked to reintroduce the minimum unit price for alcohol here, and the Department of Health said it would start consulting the idea “in early 2022.”
Swan said: “I am committed to holding a public consultation on the introduction of a Minimum Price Alcohol Unit (MUP) in Northern Ireland within one year of the launch of a new substance use strategy.
“I launched our new substance use strategy on 7 September 2021 and today I remain committed and launch this public consultation to allow the people of Northern Ireland to have their say on this important policy.
“Alcohol has been our drug of choice in Northern Ireland for many years and is reflected in the high rates of specific alcohol-related deaths. I believe the introduction of MUP will have a direct impact and help reduce mortality over time.
“I am very encouraged by the positive evidence of the introduction of MUP in Scotland and I strongly believe that the introduction here could be an important public health measure to eliminate and prevent the harm caused by alcohol. “First of all, they harm individuals.”
Under the new law, the minimum price in the republic is 10 cents per gram of alcohol.
This means that the cheapest 750ml bottle of wine is 7.40 euros (12.5% alcohol), while it cost less than 5 euros.
Gin and vodka (40%) cost €20.71 for a 700ml bottle, 700ml of whiskey (43%) for €22.09 and a 500ml can of beer for €1.70.
The changes are largely related to alcohol being sold in offices, stores and supermarkets.
Swan added: “The study showed that the total social cost of alcohol-related harm to the Northern Ireland economy could be as high as 900 million yen per year, up to 250 million yen directly from the health sector alone and another 3,383 million yen leading to the justice sector.”
However, this financial burden can never describe the innumerable effects that alcohol can have on our society.
“The evidence is very clear that price is a major factor in alcohol-related harm. Alcohol is now 74% cheaper than it was 30 years ago, and access to alcohol at very low prices promotes overconsumption and, most of all, harmful consumption.”
“Now I want to listen to the public’s opinion and ask everyone to express their opinion and respond to this consultation.
Consultations continue until May 17, 2022 and the document is available here.
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