Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann has committed to a public consultation on the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol.
A review of the current Alcohol and Drugs Strategy in 2019 indicated alcohol-related deaths continue to rise and hospital admissions linked to drinking increased from 9,573 in 2008/09 to 11,636 in 2016/17.
Mr Swann said he is committed to holding a full public consultation on the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol (MUP) within a year.
We expect that the days of alcohol being sold at pocket money prices will come to an endColin Neill, Hospitality Ulster
The move would see a minimum price set per unit (8mg or 10ml) of alcohol. It ensures a drink cannot be sold for a price lower that the number of units multiplied by the MUP.
Mr Swann said: “The impact of alcohol misuse is being felt by too many families and communities across Northern Ireland on a daily basis.
“We need to consider fully every option available to us to reduce this blight on our society.
“The impact alcohol has on our health service is clear and we must try to address the issue.”
The Scottish Government introduced minimum unit pricing on alcohol in 2018, a move which Mr Swann said he has been closely following and has noted with interest the “early positive evaluation reports”.
He added: “My department has been working in conjunction with key stakeholders on developing a new substance use strategy and this will be issued for public consultation later this year.”
Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill welcomed the announcement.
He said: “This is a measure that Hospitality Ulster has lobbied on for some time and it is great to see that the minister and the department are taking the necessary steps to consult within the next year.
“Clearly there is an issue of the misuse of alcohol which needs to be addressed. Minimum unit pricing is about supporting the responsible consumption of alcohol and we are fully behind that.
“We are now seeing the right steps being taken by our elected representatives in updating our liquor licensing legislation and they must be commended for that.”