Expert: Drink consumption will fall if minimum price brought in

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From the Irish Examiner

Friday, November 02, 2012

Alcohol consumption has dropped in Canada by between 3%-8% after minimum prices were introduced, a leading expert has said.

John Holmes told a conference on alcohol in Dublin that similar plans in Scotland would be expected to cut drinking levels by 5.5%.

The Sheffield University academic said models his team of researchers had carried out on behalf of the Scottish government predicted that a 50 pence minimum level per unit of alcohol would mean savings of almost  £1bn ( €1.25bn), 318 fewer deaths, and 6,500 less hospital admissions after 10 years.

Speaking at a conference organised by Alcohol Action Ireland, Mr Holmes said two provinces in Canada  — British Columbia and Saskatchewan  — had increased prices by 10% with the introduction of minimum pricing.

This had resulted in an 8% drop in consumption in Saskatchewan and a 3.4% fall in British Columbia. He said the latter estimate was conservative.

He said 112 studies into the effects of minimum pricing showed a consistent and significant fall in consumption, with an average fall of 4.5% based on a 10% price increase.

Mr Holmes said minimum pricing had a far bigger effect on harmful drinkers than moderate consumers as the former group drank cheaper products.

Dr Evelyn Gillan of Alcohol Focus Scotland said it was partly true that drinking was part of the culture in Scotland and Ireland. But she said what had changed in recent times was the huge increase in the availability and affordability of alcohol.

She said the legal challenge to minimum pricing was due to start this week but had been delayed. She said her group remained confident the Government would defeat the legal challenge. She said her sources within the UK government suggested Britain would pursue the introduction of minimum pricing regardless of the legal case in Scotland.

Dr Jean Long of the Health Research Board said surveys among the Irish public showed they supported many of the recommendations in the National Substance Misuse Strategy, including on minimum pricing and advertising bans.

She said the alcohol industry paid  €1.8bn in taxes last year, compared to the  €3.7bn in health, criminal justice and workplace costs to the State from alcohol abuse.

Fiona Ryan of Alcohol Action Ireland said the country was “poised at the crossroads” on what was the most significant public health issue facing the state.

She said the country “can ’t afford any more the financial and human costs” from alcohol abuse.