The New Bill: alcohol-related harm
The Welsh government has announced a new Bill which, if it becomes law, will introduce a minimum unit price for the sale of alcohol in Wales. The intention/aspiration is to reduce alcohol-related harm, alcohol-related illness and alcohol-related deaths in Wales, which as well as their inherent and obvious evils are costing the economy £millions.
The public health (minimum price for alcohol) (Wales) Bill
‘The public health (minimum price for alcohol) (Wales) Bill’ is expected to be introduced before the Welsh assembly on Monday by the public health minister, Rebecca Evans. It will seek to address longstanding health concerns by imposing minimum unit pricing of alcoholic drinks sold in pubs, clubs and bars.
Binge drinking & alcohol-related harm
The problems in Wales caused by binge drinking and the availability of cheap, strong alcohol are estimated to lead to 50,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions a year, costing the Welsh NHS £120m annually. In 2015 there were 463 alcohol-related deaths in Wales.
A report in “Wales Online” states that Wales has been called “The Binge Drinking Capital of the UK”. One in seven Welsh adults drink 14 units of alcohol in a single sitting – despite experts suggesting you should only drink that much per week
Minimum pricing in Scotland
‘The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Act’ was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2012 but has not been introduced as a result of a succession of court challenges that it breaches European law. Whether a minimum unit price will have an effect on binge drinking in Scotland , or other alcohol-related harm, is yet to be assessed.
A minimum price for alcohol in Wales
As one might expect from its title, the Welsh bill proposes to introduce a minimum price for alcohol and to make it an offence for alcohol to be supplied below that price. The level of the minimum unit price is to be specified in regulations made by Welsh ministers.
In addition to a hoped-for reduction in alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions, it is estimated that workplace absences could fall by up to 10,000 days per year. It is also claimed that the introduction of a minimum unit price could contribute £882m to the Welsh economy in terms of the reduction in alcohol-related illness, crime and workplace absence.
The Welsh minimum pricing bill proposes a formula for calculating the applicable minimum unit price for alcohol deriving from the percentage strength of the alcohol and its volume.
Rebecca Evans has said:
“Alcohol-related harm also has a big impact on public services such as the NHS. There is a very clear and direct link between levels of excessive drinking and the availability of cheap alcohol.
“So we need to take decisive action now to address the affordability of alcohol, as part of wider efforts to tackle alcohol-related harm. The bill I am unveiling today will … will make an important contribution to improving health outcomes, by putting prevention and early intervention at the heart of our efforts to reduce alcohol-related harm. This will undoubtedly help save lives.”
The chief medical officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, has reassured moderate drinkers:
“[The new law] will have a small impact on moderate drinkers. The most substantial effects will be experienced by harmful and hazardous drinkers, who are more likely to consume cheaper and higher-strength alcohol products.”
See also: The Promotion of Health
Further reading: Binge Drinking: Addressing Anti Social Behaviour