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Welsh government report backs minimum pricing for alcohol

Published:  08 December, 2014

Wales is following hot on the heels of Northern Ireland last week, with moves to support a minimum price for alcohol.

Wales is following hot on the heels of Northern Ireland last week, with moves to support a minimum price for alcohol.

The Welsh Government has published a report which stated that such a policy would cut alcohol-related hospital admissions by 1,400 per year, save 53 lives in a year and reduce the burden on healthcare by £131 million over 20 years.

The report is authored by the same group used to support the measure in Northern Ireland last week - the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, which estimates the effect of a 50 per unit minimum price.

The findings, from experts at the University's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), also states the policy would lead to an estimated reduction in alcohol consumption by the overall population of 4%, which equates to 30 units per drinker, per year. 

It states there would be a "negligible" effect on moderate drinkers, predicting they would have to pay an extra £2.37 per year and would cut back on their drinking by 6.4 units annually. Moderate drinkers below the poverty level would have to spend an extra £2.15 per year.

Drinking half a bottle of wine per night or three pints of beer, and failyure to reduce consumption after two weeks, could be classed as mild alcohol dependency. New guidance suggests GPs should then offer drug namalfene.

But high risk drinkers - those who spend almost £3,000 per year on alcohol, are expected to reduce their drinking by 293 units a year (equivalent to approximately 150 pints of beer or 10 bottles of wine per year) as a result of a 50p MUP. 

Mark Drakeford, Welsh Health and Social Services minister said the latest research showed MUP would have "significant benefits on the health of the nation, reducing alcohol misuse and drink-related harm. It would mean fewer alcohol-related deaths and ease the burden of alcohol-related harm on the Welsh NHS".

He added: "It is no coincidence that as alcohol has become relatively cheaper, alcohol-related deaths and disease have increased. We will consider these findings and continue to develop our proposals with a view to introducing legislation."

Dr Lucy Gell, one of the report's authors, said:  "These results show that as in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, a minimum unit price would lead to substantial reductions in alcohol-related harm.  It would do so without penalising moderate drinkers as it targets the cheap alcohol disproportionately purchased by the heaviest drinkers.