Alcohol Action, the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, today (Monday 15th March) supports the Minister of State, Frank Feighan’s intervention to break the logjam on implementing minimum pricing for alcohol products (MUP), as reported on thetimes.ie
For some time it has become apparent that Ireland could no longer wait on simultaneous action on MUP from Northern Ireland. Now Ireland’s progress towards implementing MUP, coupled with MUP operational in Scotland and Wales’ will hopefully be a catalyst to the Stormont executive to act decisively on MUP.
An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin and Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, have a strong record in pioneering public health policy. Commencement of minimum unit pricing will prove to be a lasting legacy to both, as the introduction of MUP will both save lives and reduce alcohol harms to drinkers, their families and society as a whole.
As the recent 2020 data on alcohol use demonstrates, the level of alcohol purchases in the off-trade has increased dramatically throughout the COVID pandemic. This phenomenon has been particularly accelerated by a reckless price promotion across the retail landscape that ensures cheap drink is widely available, and exceptionally affordable.
We understand Minister Feighan’s view that some brief consultation may be required to refine the logistics and timing of operations of the law but we trust that the Government will now expedite matters over the coming weeks and that operation will commence in early autumn.
Commenting on today’s development, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications, Alcohol Action Ireland said:
There have been a few false dawns but this a good day. The ubiquitous availability of cheap, strong alcohol throughout every community in Ireland is the source of enormous harm to both the individual user and those around them. By implementing this proven public health measure of MUP, we will make progress on addressing over 15 years of reckless discounting of a highly addictive substance.
While there has been some resistance to MUP within government, it is important to recognise that the public health gains from reducing alcohol use are far greater than protecting private interests. Equally, in implementing the democratic will of the Oireachtas, an economic opportunity arises to re-establish fairer market conditions.
Prof Frank Murray, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland, said:
The implementation of minimum pricing for alcohol products stands recognised by the WHO as a robust means to reduce alcohol harm. It is one of the most significant measures of the Public Health Alcohol Act, which also must be implemented in full. In the time since its enactment, it is estimated that a further 6,800 lives have been lost to alcohol related illness and incident. By implementing this proven measure we will see, over time, a much needed reduction in acute alcohol episodes presenting for hospital admission and crucially less alcohol related deaths.
It is particularly timely to introduce MUP now, as society advances towards some re-opening after the latest wave of COVID-19. MUP will reduce the huge price difference for alcohol between supermarkets and the hospitality sector, which will be supported by introduction of MUP.