Calls for minimum alcohol pricing in Ireland following drop in Scottish sales

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The introduction of minimum pricing has been credited with the drop in alcohol sales in Scotland last year - with lobby groups here calling for Ireland to follow suit.

Figures from the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland's Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) programme show that the total volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland in 2018 was 9.9 litres - the lowest since recording began in 1994.

Scotland introduced minimum pricing in May 2018, and subsequently less than a quarter (23%) of all alcohol sold in shops and supermarkets last year cost less than 50p per unit - down from 47% in 2017. Sheila Gilheany, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said the report gives the first indications of the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP).

“Ireland which has even higher levels of alcohol consumption, needs to address the multiple harms from alcohol in a systematic way," Ms Gilheany said.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, which includes such progressive measures as Minimum Unit Pricing, restrictions on advertising, product separation and labelling information for all alcohol products, was enacted almost nine months ago and has the potential to make a significant impact on the harms from alcohol in Ireland.

“However, many sections of the Act including MUP, have yet to be commenced by Minister Simon Harris. We know that young people are particularly price-sensitive so MUP is an essential part of the suite of measures in the Act.”

Alcohol Action Ireland said the delay in implementing the Act was ‘deeply disappointing’ and called on Minister Harris to clarify the date of commencement for the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing. Scottish health officials welcomed the figures and cited MUP as a significant contributor to the drop in alcohol sales.

Lucie Giles, public health intelligence adviser at NHS Health Scotland, said the implementation of MUP has seen a substantial fall in the volume of alcohol being sold at very low prices, along with the biggest rise in the average price of alcohol sold through supermarkets and off-licences in a decade.

BMA Scotland chairman Dr Lewis Morrison described the figures as “a very promising and welcome start to, what I hope, is the substantial change in Scotland's damaging relationship with alcohol”.

"Minimum unit pricing is a long-term strategy and to see results like this in the first year is extremely encouraging," he said.

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