Today (Weds 5 May), Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar mark the decision by Cabinet to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol.
A minimum unit price of 10c per gram of alcohol is provided for in section 11 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018. Minimum unit pricing will set a floor price beneath which alcohol cannot legally be sold and will target products that are cheap relative to their strength. The minimum price is determined by and is directly proportionate to the amount of pure alcohol in the drink.
Section 11 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act on Minimum Unit Pricing, is a major provision of the Act which is designed to address the harms of alcohol misuse.
Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, said; “The Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 legislates for alcohol from a public health perspective. The Act is designed to reduce alcohol consumption, to reduce the harms caused by the misuse of alcohol and to delay the initiation of alcohol consumption by children and young people.
“Ireland had the third highest level of adolescent binge drinking in the world according to data from a global study published in The Lancet in March 2019, while 2018 saw an 80% increase in the number of children under-16 admitted to Irish hospitals because of alcohol intoxication. 36 children in 2018 compared to 20 such cases in 2017.
“Addressing the availability of cheap strong alcohol products will reduce the disease and death caused by the harmful use of alcohol and will ensure that cheap strong alcohol is not available to children and young people at “pocket money” prices.
“We are taking this important step in prevention alongside an investment of €1.08m to expand alcohol services. That expansion will include the establishment of two community-based teams to provide counselling and supports to adults with problem alcohol use and to their families.”
Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD said: “As Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health I welcome that the Government has taken this step.
“The World Health Organisation has said that there is indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters. If the price of alcohol goes up, alcohol-related harm goes down.
“Minimum unit pricing is a targeted measure that will help those that need our help the most. We know from our modelling and from the evidence from Scotland that minimum unit pricing impacts the most on high risk harmful drinkers. If we can remove cheap strong alcohol from our stores, we can reduce the burden of disease and we can put strong alcohol out of the price range of our children and young people “
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, said; “As Minister for Health I introduced the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to the Oireachtas in 2015, the first public health legislation on alcohol by any Government in the history of the State. Today, the Government has taken another major decision to improve public health in Ireland with Minimum Unit Pricing.
“Alcohol consumption is a major cause of illness, hospitalisations, suicide, self-harm, and violence. This Bill targets the drinkers causing the most harm both to themselves and to society. I believe it is the right thing to do. It will save lives and indirectly improve the wellbeing of thousands of Irish people. We will be the better for it.”
Dr. Sheila Gilheany, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said; “Alcohol Action Ireland are pleased that Section 11 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act will now be commenced. The universal availability of cheap, strong alcohol products has contributed to Ireland's problematic alcohol use and the poor public health related outcomes. By commencing MUP, and establishing a floor price for alcohol, we can expect to see less alcohol being purchased by those who cause themselves, and others, the greatest harm. This will reduce alcohol harm and save lives.”
Professor Siobhan MacHale, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist at Beaumont Hospital, said; “As a physician and psychiatrist who works in a general hospital, I see patients affected by alcohol on a daily basis, in settings ranging from Emergency Departments to ICU. We have seen a three-fold increase in alcohol related presentations to Beaumount Hospital Emergency Department over a 10 year period, 2005-2015.
“I, along with Emergency Department, Hepatology and Psychiatry colleagues in Beaumont Hospital greatly welcome and strongly support MUP as a targeted public health measure to help those most vulnerable in our society to minimise alcohol-related harm.”