The government is set to introduce new higher alcohol prices in off-licences and supermarkets. Here’s everything you need to know about what these prices are, why they are changing, and when.
What is the minimum unit pricing?
Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is the lowest price that alcohol can be sold at. The government has opted to introduce a set minimum price of 10 cent per gram of alcohol, under Section 11 of the Public Health Alcohol Act. The new minimum price will be 10c per gram, and as a standard drink has 10g of alcohol in it, this means that €1 is the lowest price it is legal to charge for a standard drink.
How much will alcohol in Ireland cost?
Under the new measures, the minimum price that can be charged for a pint of lager will be around €1.98, while minimum for a can of beer will be €1.70. A bottle of wine can’t be sold for less than €7.40, and a 70cl bottle of whiskey or gin can’t be sold for less than €22.09. Supermarkets like Tesco and Lidl are being targeted, with own-brand vodka set to increase from around €12.99 to €20.71, the new minimum for a 70cl bottle of vodka. Cheap, popular brands like Dutch Gold and Tesco lager are also under fire, with Dutch God rising by 45c per can and Tesco lager rising by 6c per can. These increases won’t affect higher-end brands like Guinness or Heineken, however.
Why have alcohol prices gone up?
According to Alcohol Action Ireland, the alcohol harm advocacy group, a man can drink the weekly low-risk limit of 17 standard drinks for as little as €7.65, while a woman can reach the weekly low-risk limit of 11 standard drinks for just €4.95. This is a concern not only for groups such as Alcohol Action Ireland and Drink Aware, but even the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Health Research Board (HRB) reports that in 2019, 7,546 people in Ireland were treated for problem alcohol use, and between 2013 and 2019, 53,200 people received treatment for alcohol misuse. To put these findings in more context, the HRB has stated that more than half of all alcohol drinkers in Ireland aged between 18 and 75 years old (1.35 million people) were classified as harmful drinkers. Young people and older people with alcohol dependencies are most affected by this change – it’s notoriously easy for students to get hammered on €10/£10.
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The implementation of minimum unit pricing is a strategy that’s recognised as an effective way to temper alcohol abuse. WHO have reported that “[t]here is a robust evidence base supporting the high effectiveness of MUPs (minimum unit pricing) in reducing alcohol consumption and harm, particularly among the heaviest drinkers.” Scotland has already implemented this strategy, and as of May 1, 2018, the minimum price per unit of alcohol sold is 50 British pence. Wales adopted this approach too, starting in March 2020 with the same minimum unit price as Scotland. Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine have all implemented minimum unit pricing in the hopes that it will curb alcohol abuse.
When will these changes come into effect?
The new prices are set to be in effect from 1st January 2022. The government is pressuring Northern Ireland to follow suit, but Minister of State at the Department of Health Frank Feighan has said that the North’s Minister for Health, Robert Swann, disclosed to him that “Northern Ireland would not be bringing it in before the northern elections in May 2022,” and that “[y]ou could be talking about the end of 2022 before they introduce it.”
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