Alcohol Action Ireland today welcomed the reporting of the Minster for Health, Simon Harris’ intention to implement Minimum Unit Pricing ‘as soon as possible to address the health harms and cost associated with harmful alcohol consumption’.
Ireland’s harmful relationship with alcohol is evident by the continued underlying rise in consumption, with 2018 data likely to further illustrate a continual rise in our drinking, an outcome well documented in the frequent alcohol industry and retailers’ trading statements.
Implementing all the provisions of the Public Health Alcohol Act, 2018, in a coherent and cohesive manner is critical to achieving the preferred public health objectives and a significant reduction required in our whole-of-population alcohol consumption, which at over 11 litres per capita, remains 40% beyond the low risk consumption guidelines.
Commenting on the media reports, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications and Advocacy, Alcohol Action Ireland said:
“Minister Harris has a very strong record of pressing ahead with these crucial public health initiatives and his support for the objectives at the heart of this critical legislation remains steadfast.
Ireland faces into 2019 with many challenges however encouraging better public health outcomes related to less harmful alcohol consumption remains an objective within our own control. In this regard, we believe the government must proceed with implementing Minimum Price of alcohol products as a priority.”
Minimum unit pricing
Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is a mechanism to establish a ‘floor price’ beneath which alcohol cannot legally be sold and is based on the amount of pure alcohol in a product, measured in grammes. One standard drink in Ireland contains 10 grammes of alcohol and the Public Health (Alcohol) Act – Section 11 – provides for an MUP of €1 per standard drink.
MUP is a targeted measure, designed to stop strong alcohol being sold at very low prices in the off-trade: supermarkets, convenience stores and off-licences, where alcohol is frequently used as a ’loss leader’.
The easy and widespread availability of such cheap alcohol has contributed to a significant shift in our alcohol purchasing and consumption habits from on-trade towards the off-trade sector – pubs to home drinking – which now accounts for the majority of alcohol sold and consumed in Ireland.
MUP will target cheaper alcohol relative to its strength because the price is determined by, and directly proportionate to, the amount of pure alcohol in the drink. The MUP of 0.10c per grammes (one standard drink contains 10 gms of pure alcohol) will not affect the price of any alcohol products in pubs, clubs and restaurants, which reflects other cost factors, but which will raise the price of the products that are cheap relative to their strength in the off-trade: So, for example:
- a pint of Heineken (5% ABV) would have a MUP of €2.25.
- a pint of Budweiser (4% ABV) would have a MUP of €1.80.
- a measure of Paddy Irish whiskey (40% ABV) would have a MUP of €1.12.
- a measure of Huzzar vodka (37.5% ABV) would have a MUP of €1.05.
- a 500ml can of Guinness (4.2% ABV) would have a MUP of €1.68.
- a 500ml can of Devil’s Bit Cider (6% ABV) would have a MUP of €2.40.
- a 500ml can of Dutch Gold (4% ABV) would have a MUP of €1.60.
- a 440ml can of Tesco lager (3.8% ABV) would have a MUP of €1.33.
- a 700ml bottle of Jameson whiskey (40% ABV) would have a MUP of €22.40.
- a 700ml bottle of Gin (37.5% ABV) would have a MUP of €20.70.
- a 750ml bottle of Jacob’s Creek Classic Chardonnay (13.1% ABV) would have a MUP of €7.86.
- a 1,000ml bottle of Smirnoff vodka (37.5% ABV) would have a MUP of €30.
The targeted approach of MUP is important as the strongest, cheapest drinks are the alcohol products generally favoured by the heaviest drinkers among us, who generally seek the greatest amount of alcohol for the least amount of spend, and who are most at risk of alcohol-related illnesses and death.
These alcohol products are also favoured by our children and young people, who generally have the least disposable income but the highest prevalence of binge drinking.