Minimum Unit Price for Alcohol to Help Improve Public Health

Introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol will have the greatest impact on hazardous and harmful drinkers, new research commissioned by the Welsh Government has shown.

In October, the Welsh Labour Government unveiled a new Bill that will, if passed by the National Assembly for Wales, introduce a minimum price for the sale of alcohol.  The Bill is designed to tackle the health impacts of excessive alcohol consumption.

Work has been undertaken by The Sheffield Alcohol Research Group at the University of Sheffield to analyse the likely impact of a range of minimum unit pricing policies in Wales.

Using a 50 pence minimum unit price as an illustrative example, the research shows harmful drinkers purchase almost half (46%) of their alcohol for less than 50p per unit.  Accounting for 4% of the drinker population, they drink 27% of, and are responsible for 20% of all spending on, all alcohol consumed in Wales.

In contrast, moderate drinkers purchase less than a quarter (22%) of their alcohol for less than 50p per unit which means it is estimated moderate drinkers would only spend £8.30 extra per year under a 50p MUP.

The research also predicts the policy will lead to 66 fewer deaths and almost 1,300 fewer hospital admissions a year.

Wrexham’s Assembly Member, Lesley Griffiths, has backed the proposals and said: “Many, if not all alcohol-attributable deaths are avoidable and this significant Welsh Government legislation will help improve public health and, ultimately, save lives.”

“The latest research suggests the introduction of a minimum unit price would have a clear impact on those who drink harmful and hazardous levels of cheaper, higher-strength alcohol.  It is an effective approach which should have a small impact on moderate drinkers.”

The Welsh Government hope the Bill will come into law by summer 2018.