Alcohol Action Ireland, the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, today welcomes the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for all alcohol products from tomorrow, 4th January.
The operational commencement of the measure marks a historical development in public health alcohol policy, which since the enactment of the Public Health Alcohol Act has sought to address Ireland’s profound difficulty with alcohol use.
The Act after many years of debate, and vociferous industry lobbying against its public health strategy, tackles alcohol harm by establishing a suite of measures that focuses on the drivers of alcohol consumption: price, promotion and availability, while ensuring citizens are provided with accurate information on the health risk. These evidenced-based alcohol controls are strongly recommended by the World Health Organisation and the OECD.
By introducing MUP, the state has now set a floor price for alcohol – 10c per gram/€1 per Standard Drink – beneath which it cannot be legally sold. It targets the widespread availability of cheap, strong alcohol products across the retail sector. These products are preferred by the heaviest users of alcohol and binge/high risk drinkers.
For many years, the alcohol retailers, supported by alcohol producers, has chased custom with reckless hyper-discounting of alcohol that has fuelled persistent poor public health outcomes from harmful alcohol use.
Modelled estimates indicate that across the heaviest drinkers/high risk users there can be a 15.1% reduction of alcohol use, while across the whole-of-population a 8.8% reduction is intended by establishing the rate at 0.10c per gram.
Ireland’s rate was set in October 2013 and in the intervening period, inflationary pressures have eroded this rate, and its likely efficacy, by 6.3%. In the same timeframe, there has also been no Consumer Price Index adjustment, or any rate increase, to alcohol excise duties, ensuring increased affordability of alcohol.
Every day there are still at least three alcohol-related deaths in Ireland: two from illness and one from incident. By introducing this evidence-based measure the effects on health are estimated to be substantial, with annual alcohol-attributable deaths estimated to reduce by approximately 197 per year after 20 years, by which time the full effects of the measure will be seen.
Similar patterns are observed amongst reductions in alcohol-related hospital admissions, with an estimated 5,878 fewer admissions per year across the population.
The total societal value of reductions in health, crime and workplace harms is estimated at €1.7bn over the 20 year period modelled. At present alcohol harm costs Ireland at least €3.6 billion annually.
Commenting on this development, Prof. Frank Murray, Chair, Alcohol Action Ireland, said:
“Today’s introduction is a really positive move by government to address persistent alcohol related harms. With almost two-thirds of all alcohol use emanating from off-trade retail sales, the availability of such volumes of cheap drink in every community in Ireland has to tackled, if we hope to address the chronic level of alcohol related harm that demands so much of our health services. I have no doubt that in addressing the exceptional affordability of this alcohol, MUP will have proved to have saved many lives.”
Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action, said:
“The implementation of the Public Health Alcohol Act in full, will be viewed as the turning point in our national efforts to finally address the wound to society from alcohol harms. In recent times, after some measures tackling the promotion and availability of alcohol have been implemented, we are beginning to see tentative signs of a better understanding of alcohol related harm, and a reduction in use. MUP will add to that movement and will make a further contribution to what we hope is a better, low-risk engagement with alcohol.”
The projected outcomes of minimum unit pricing at 0.10c in Ireland can be found in the modelling conducted by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group in 2014 for the Department of Health:
Alcohol Action have produced a series of video messages from a range of public health advocates, supporting the introduction of minimum unit pricing: