Today, the Irish Government announced its intention to proceed with the introduction of a minimum price regime for alcohol as part of an extensive package of measures aimed at addressing the problem of alcohol misuse.
The new pricing structure – based on a product’s strength – is to be calculated on the price per gram of alcohol sold over the counter. The Government plans to consult with the Northern Ireland authorities to ensure that there are no major differences in the pricing of the cheapest drinks between both countries.
In addition to a minimum price, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill also makes provision for regulating the marketing and advertising of alcohol, sports sponsorship, and the health labeling of alcohol products.
Welcoming the Government’s decision, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said: “Alcohol misuse in Ireland is a serious problem with two thousand of our hospital beds occupied each night by people with alcohol related illness or injury. This impacts on families and individuals at every level of society.
“It’s deeply worrying too that young people are starting to drink earlier and to drink more. The average Irish person over the age of 15 is consuming the equivalent of a bottle of vodka a week. The Government is committed to tackling these problems and this week’s decision marks a significant further step in that direction to create an environment where responsible consumption of alcohol is the norm.”
In Scotland, plans to introduce a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol were approved by the Scottish Parliament in May 2012. These plans have however been put on hold due to a legal challenge made by bodies representing the global alcohol producers. The Holyrood administration has congratulated the Irish government for its intention to press ahead despite expected opposition from the drinks industry.
Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “I’m delighted by the news that Ireland intends to legislate for minimum unit pricing of alcohol. It further backs up our commitment to this policy, which will save lives and reduce alcohol-related harm and the costs associated with it.”