Wales calls time on low cost alcohol

Author: Jo Carlowe

A new law has come into force today setting a minimum price for alcohol in Wales.

The change means that alcohol cannot be sold or supplied for less than 50p a unit.

The policy, introduced through the Welsh government’s Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Act 2018, aims to reduce hazardous and harmful levels of drinking.

Around 10 people die every week in Wales from alcohol-related causes. Every year, alcohol leads to nearly 60,000 hospital admissions in Wales and costs NHS Wales an estimated £159 million.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said: “We know when alcohol is cheap and readily available, harmful drinking increases. The minimum price won’t affect moderate drinkers who may be worried about the price of a pint going up. The aim of this legislation is to reduce the harm being done by those most at risk of alcohol abuse.”

The law will not mean a change in price of most alcoholic drinks, but is aimed at high-strength, low-cost products such as white cider, which will now be significantly more expensive.

Dr Sarah Aitken, director of Public Health for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said: “We see the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on people’s health every day. Aside from damaging the liver, alcohol affects the heart, kidneys and brain. It impacts on hospital services, and on people’s lives more generally. The intervention of minimum pricing will reduce the harm done by alcohol, it’s an important step and will hopefully make people think about their relationship with alcohol.”

In Scotland, where a minimum price was introduced in May 2018, early indicators are encouraging, with a reduction in the annual volume of pure alcohol in drinks sold, and a fall in the volume of alcohol sold at very low prices.