Press release: Minimum alcohol pricing in Wales “will save lives”

Maddy Lawson | October 2017 | 6 minutes

New plans for minimum alcohol pricing in Wales, announced Monday 23 October 2017, have been welcomed by Alcohol Concern, as they released new research showing that alcohol can currently be purchased in Wales for as little as 18p per unit.

This means that 14 units – the maximum amount the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommend any of us drink in a week – is available for just £2.52.

The charity has been campaigning for the price control measure, which it says will improve health and save lives, without penalising the majority of drinkers. Alcohol Concern Cymru Director, Andrew Misell, said,

“The introduction of a minimum unit price will be an important and effective step in addressing the harms caused by alcohol misuse in Wales. As alcohol has become more affordable, the rates of alcohol-related ill-health have risen. Minimum pricing will help to reduce harmful drinking, without punishing moderate drinkers.

“Crucially, this isn’t a tax on booze. Minimum pricing is a much more targeted measure than tax, because it raises the prices of only the very cheapest alcoholic drinks on the market – those that tend to be purchased and consumed by the heaviest drinkers.”

Some of the cheapest drinks found by Alcohol Concern on sale in Wales at present include:

  • 3 litres of strong cider for £3.99: 18p per unit
  • 70cl of fortified wine for £2.99: 27p per unit
  • 70cl of vodka or gin for £10.00: 38p per unit

With the introduction of a minimum price per unit of 50p – the level most talked about so far – the prices of all these drinks, and many others like them, would increase substantially, or they would have to be withdrawn from sale.

In contrast, Alcohol Concern’s analysis of well-known alcohol brands available to purchase online from major supermarkets found that most of these would not be affected by the 50p threshold, except when on special offer or being sold with a multiple purchase discount.

Andrew Misell explained,

“If you’re a moderate or light drinker then you really have nothing to worry about. We may end up seeing fewer alcohol price promotions like buy-one-get-one-free deals but it’s unlikely we will see significant increases in the prices of the most popular alcohol brands. This is about tackling the cheap, high-strength products most-associated with harmful drinking.”

The comments were echoed by Dr Andrew Yeoman, Clinical Lead for the Wales Liver Disease Plan, who said,

“There is no doubt that cheap, high-strength alcohol is a significant contributor to the growing number of patients experiencing alcohol-related health problems, including liver disease. Deaths from liver disease in Wales continue to rise, and heavy drinking remains the major cause of this. The health benefits of removing the sale of cheap alcohol in our society are irrefutable, and therefore minimum unit pricing will be very welcome.”

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