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Launch of Minimum Unit Pricing Consultation Ideal Time for Political Clarity

22 Feb 2022

Welcoming today’s announcement that the Health Minister has launched a public consultation on the introduction of a Minimum Unit Price (MUP) for alcohol, local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS) has called on political parties to state whether they will support such a policy.

“We very much support this announcement by Robin Swann. We have campaigned in support of MUP for many years believing it will bring significant health benefits for local people.” Commented Neil Johnston, Public Affairs and Policy Manager for NICHS

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke recently issued a call to all political parties who intend to stand in the Assembly elections to make clear whether they will support the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol.

“We believe MUP is a targeted approach that, by increasing the price of ludicrously cheap alcohol, will lead to a reduction in consumption amongst those who are drinking damaging quantities of drink. Even a small reduction will lead to significant health improvements.

It is not a silver bullet, but we need to recognise that a significant proportion of the population are drinking damaging amounts of alcohol and we need a range of measures to address that – including MUP.”

Neil Johnston, Public Affairs and Policy Manager for NICHS went on to call on all political parties to make their position clear.

“The public should be told, ahead of the elections, which parties will back this measure, and which will not. We believe we need legislation on this as soon as possible – we are lagging behind Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland who introduced MUP in the South of Ireland at the start of January this year.”

High risk drinkers are defined as those drinking on average 86.5 units a week. Government advice is that people should not drink more than 14 units a week. A unit of alcohol is equivalent to: a single measure of spirits; half a pint of average-strength (4%) lager; or two-thirds of a small glass of average-strength (12%) wine.

A study of Northern Ireland by Sheffield University showed that high risk drinkers who make up 5.8% of the population, are responsible for 39% of consumption and 29% of all spending on alcohol.

Neil Johnston continued;

“We need to act to assist people change their behaviour and MUP must be one part of comprehensive programme of action.”

He also dismissed the idea that MUP would hit ordinary drinkers at a time when rising prices were squeezing people’s household budgets.

“This measure will not affect the prices of drink in pubs, restaurants, night clubs or hotels – they don’t sell alcohol at extremely low prices. Indeed, most moderate drinkers who buy alcohol in the supermarkets will barely notice this move precisely because it is so targeted.”