Calls for the introduction of ‘Minimum Unit Pricing’ for alcohol in Wales.
The introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol would lead to significant improvements to the health of the population of Wales – one of the findings of research into the area by Public Health Wales.
Research led by Professor Mark Bellis has concluded that a minimum unit price would be a effective way of targeting the heaviest drinkers and other groups particularly at risk from alcohol related harms.
The research found there would be little change in the amount moderate drinkers pay for alcohol, should minimum pricing be introduced in Wales.
Professor Mark Bellis, Director of Policy, Research and Development for Public Health Wales said:
“Minimum Unit Pricing is based on two fundamental principles. Firstly – when the price of alcohol increases, consumption, especially by the heaviest drinkers, goes down.
“Secondly, when alcohol consumption in a population declines, rates of alcohol related harms also decline, saving lives and reducing pressures on health services.
“At the moment the estimated cost to the NHS in Wales of alcohol-related harm is between £70 and £85 million each year. Alcohol-related admissions to hospital and deaths in men and women have increased dramatically over the last decade and so we must look at every tool available to tackle this major problem.”
“From what we know about the drinking patterns of people in Wales we expect that introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol would help us reduce consumption in the heaviest drinkers.
“Those who drink in moderation would notice very little change in what they spend on alcohol.”
The Welsh Government cannot legislate on the licensing of the sale and supply of alcohol, as the current law covers both England and Wales.
Last year the UK Government shelved plans to introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England and Wales.
The ‘flagship’ policy has been put on hold on the grounds there was not enough concrete evidence to back up experts claims it would reduce heavy drinking.
Other measures to reduce alcohol-related harm recommended by Public Health Wales include:
- All alcohol products carrying a health warning from an independent health regulatory body
- Restricting the sale of alcohol to specific times of the day
- Tax on alcohol products being proportionate to the volume of alcohol
- Licensing authorities should be empowered to tackle alcohol-related harm by controlling total availability in their area
- Alcohol advertising limited to newspapers and other adult press while its content should be limited to factual information
- The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration for drivers should be reduced to 50mg/100ml
- Graduated driver licensing should be introduced, restricting the circumstances in which young and novice drivers can drive
- All health and social care professionals should be trained to provide early identification and brief alcohol advice
- People who need support for alcohol problems should be routinely referred to specialist alcohol services for assessment and treatment
- Existing laws to prohibit the sale of alcohol to individuals who are already heavily intoxicated should be enforced in order to reduce acute and long term harms to their health and that of the individuals around them.
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