Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke

News

22 February 2017

Cheap alcohol causing huge harm

Local health charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, has called for action on the sale of very cheap alcohol and has welcomed recent opinion polling showing nearly two thirds of people in Northern Ireland support taking action.

“Opinion polling carried out by Millward Brown shows that 65% of people in Northern Ireland support the idea that the Assembly take measures to control the sale of very cheap alcohol,” commented Neil Johnston, Public Affairs Adviser for NICHS.

“Introducing a Minimum Unit Price of 50p is estimated to save 63 lives a year and result in almost 2,500 fewer hospital admissions – a substantial contribution to improving health in Northern Ireland. Alcohol consumption is linked to cardiovascular disease, as well as liver disease and some cancers. ”

Mr Johnston rejected criticisms that the policy would penalise ‘ordinary’ drinkers.

“Minimum pricing and bans on alcohol promotions only have a small impact on moderate drinkers. The most substantial effects are experienced by high risk drinkers.

“High risk drinkers are people who consume on average 86.5 units of alcohol a week, which is over 40 pints of lager. This group of people represents less than 6% of the population however, amazingly, they are responsible for 39% of consumption and 29% of all spending on alcohol.

“Alcohol sold for less than 50p per unit makes up the majority of alcohol purchased by high risk drinkers. Work done by Sheffield University shows that pushing up the price of very cheap alcohol will reduce the consumption of it by high risk drinkers and bring considerable benefits.”

In addition to lives saved and fewer hospital admissions, NICHS claimed that the policy would help cut the costs of crime by £20m a year and reduce workplace absence.

Mr Johnston reiterated his belief that the policy would have little impact on moderate drinkers.

“The studies suggest a Minimum price of 50p would cost them an average £4.70 per year extra.”

Mr Johnston was also keen to dispel any idea that the policy was a ‘tax-raising venture’ by government.

“Actually the amount of revenue going to the Exchequer would decrease slightly. The increase in revenue goes to the retailers not government.”

NICHS is hosting an event to focus attention on Minimum Unit Pricing on Monday 27th February 2017 at 1pm at its office at 21 Dublin Road, Belfast, BT2 7HB. There will be three speakers:

Colin Angus who is a Research Fellow in the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group within the School of Health and Related Research at Sheffield University.

Prof Frank Murray who is President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and has been to the fore in promoting MUP in the Republic of Ireland.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster which represents pubs, bars, café-bars, restaurants, hotels and visitor attractions in Northern Ireland. Hospitality Ulster is supportive of MUP.

If you would like to attend the event, please RSVP to njohnston@nichs.org.uk by lunchtime on Friday 24th February.

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