In Ireland our unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking a heavy toll on our society. We have one of the highest levels of both alcohol consumption and binge drinking in the world.
Our harmful drinking has a huge impact on our nation’s physical and mental health, claiming three lives every day. Beyond health consequences, the harmful use of alcohol brings significant social and economic losses to individuals and society at large.
However, despite this, it is still possible for a man to reach his low risk weekly drinking limit for just €8.50 – less than an hour’s pay on the minimum wage – while a woman can reach her low risk weekly drinking limit for just €6.30.
Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is a particularly important measure for reducing alcohol harm as, by setting a ’floor price’ beneath which alcohol cannot legally be sold, it is designed to stop the sale of strong alcohol products at very low prices in the off-trade, particularly supermarkets. The widespread availability of such cheap alcohol has caused such a dramatic shift in our patterns of alcohol consumption in Ireland.
However, MUP will have no impact on the price of a pint, or any alcohol sold in pubs, clubs or restaurants and will have little or no impact on those who drink in a low-risk manner.
MUP can save lives precisely because it targets only the strongest and cheapest drinks, which are the alcohol products favoured by two groups most vulnerable to alcohol-related harm – the very heaviest drinkers among us, who generally seek to get as much alcohol as they can for as little money as possible, and our young people, who generally have the least disposable income and the highest prevalence of binge drinking.