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Alcohol-related harm costing NI Economy up to £900million per year


Health Minister Robin Swann has today launched a new public consultation on the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol into Northern Ireland.


Minister Swann said:


“I made a commitment that I would hold a public consultation on the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for Alcohol in Northern Ireland within a year of the launch of the new Substance Use Strategy.



“I launched our new substance use strategy on 7 September 2021 and today I make good on my promise and launch this public consultation so that the people of Northern Ireland can have their say on this important policy.


“For many years now alcohol has been our drug of choice in Northern Ireland and this is reflected in our high rates of alcohol specific deaths. I believe that the introduction of MUP will have a direct impact and help to reduce the number of these deaths over time.


“I have been greatly encouraged by the positive evidence coming out about the introduction of MUP within Scotland and firmly believe that its introduction here has the potential to be a key population-level health measure to address the harms related to alcohol consumption and help to prevent individuals coming to harm in the first place.”



Minister Swann continued:


“Research has shown that the full social cost to the Northern Ireland economy of alcohol-related harm could be as high as £900m per year, with up to £250m directly borne by the Health sector alone and a further £383m borne by the Justice sector. However, this financial burden can never fully describe the incalculable impact that alcohol related harm has on our Society.


“The evidence is quite clear that price is a key factor in driving alcohol-related harm. Alcohol is 74% more affordable now than it was 30 years ago, and the availability of alcohol at very low prices is encouraging excessive and, most importantly, harmful consumption.


“Now I want to hear the views of the public and I would urge everyone to have their say and respond to this consultation.”



The consultation document is available on-line Department of Health (health-ni.gov.uk)


Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol (MUP) is a population-level health measure that would set a minimum price that could be charged per unit (8 mg or 10ml) of alcohol.


Any alcoholic beverage has a set number of units. The purpose of MUP ensures that a drink cannot then be sold for a price lower that the number of units multiplied by the MUP.


MUP increases the price of drinks, such as own-brand spirits, high strength beers and white cider, which have high alcohol content but are usually very cheap. The more units a drink contains, the stronger it is and therefore the more expensive it will be.


MUP was introduced in Scotland in May 2018. The first results of the evaluation of the change are beginning to emerge and initial signs are very promising that it is an effective measure, but it is too early to be definitive.


NI’s new Substance Use Strategy contains a commitment that a full consultation will be held on MUP within the next year.