HEALTH Minister Robin Swann today (Tuesday) launched a new public consultation on the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol at local level.
The Minimum Unit Price for Alcohol (MUP) would establish a minimum price that could be charged per unit (8mg or 10ml) of alcohol.
Any alcoholic beverage has a set number of units. The objective of the MUP ensures that a drink cannot then be sold for less than the number of units multiplied by the MUP.
The MUP raises the price of beverages, such as own-brand spirits, high-strength beers, and white cider, which have a high alcohol content but are generally very inexpensive.
The more units a drink contains, the stronger it is and therefore the more expensive it will be.
Minister Swann said: “Alcohol has been our drug of choice in Northern Ireland for many years and this is reflected in our high rates of alcohol-related deaths. I think the introduction of the MUP will have a direct impact and help reduce the number of these deaths over time.
“I have been very encouraged by the positive evidence around the introduction of MUP in Scotland and strongly believe that its introduction here has the potential to be a key population-level health measure to address the harms associated with alcohol consumption and help prevent individuals coming to harm in the first place.
Minister Swann continued: “Research has shown that the total social cost to Northern Ireland’s economy of alcohol-related harm could be as high as £900 million a year, with up to £250 million pounds directly borne by the health sector alone and an additional £383 million. supported by the justice sector. However, this financial burden can never fully describe the incalculable impact that alcohol harm has on our society.
“The evidence is quite clear that price is a key factor in driving alcohol-related harm. Alcohol is 74% more affordable today than 30 years ago, and the availability of alcohol at very low prices encourages excessive and, above all, harmful consumption.
“Now I want to hear the opinions of the public and I urge everyone to speak up and respond to this consultation.”
The consultation document is available online from the Department of Health (health-ni.gov.uk).