In Ireland our unhealthy use of alcohol is taking a heavy toll on our society. We have one of the highest levels of both alcohol use 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 €7.65 – less than an hour’s pay on the minimum wage – while a woman can reach her low risk weekly drinking limit for just €4.95.
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.
Will MUP motivate cross-border alcohol shopping?
Not in a meaningful way, nor in the medium/long term. There are many factors contributing to the purchase of goods in Northern Ireland. Currency fluctuations, VAT differential and ‘cost of living’ remain the constant factors in such considerations.
Cross border trade is valued at €458 million (CSO:2018), while 14% of that household expenditure on shopping in NI was on alcohol (€64m).
Over 60% of the value of current Ireland to Northern Ireland cross-border shopping is conducted by those who live in the Border region (CSO:2018). The daily weaving of living between both jurisdiction is part of everyday life; commercial transaction in one or other is determined by the immediate value of the currency and the available price.
In the final consideration, MUP will save lives, reduce harm and release scarce public resources devoted to managing chronic alcohol related harm: alcohol related inpatient healthcare accounts for 11% (approx. €1.8 billion) of all public healthcare expenditure.
© Copyright 2021 Alcohol Action Ireland
Company Number 378738 - Charity Number CHY 15342. Charity Reg No: 20052713
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