Belfast Telegraph

Minimum alcohol pricing considered

Wales' health minister will consider introducing a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol after a new report says the charge would cut crime and hospital admissions.

A study published today said that the levy would be worth £882 million to the country's economy over 20 years.

The Welsh Government commissioned experts at Sheffield University to look at the impact of a minimum unit price for alcohol if introduced in Wales.

Their report estimates that a minimum price would reduce alcohol consumption across Wales by 4% - which could see each year booze related deaths fall by 53 and see 3,700 fewer criminal offences committed per year.

Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford welcomed the report's findings and said it was "further proof" the 50p fee would have significant benefits.

"It is no coincidence that as alcohol has become relatively cheaper, alcohol-related deaths and disease have increased," he said.

"We will consider these findings and continue to develop our proposals with a view to introducing legislation."

Earlier this year, in England legislation on alcohol pricing came into effect. It prevented alcohol being sold at less than cost price - for example, a can of average strength lager could not be sold for less than 40p.

In Scotland, legislation to introduce a 50p minimum price was passed by Holyrood in May 2012, but ongoing legal challenges have prevented the policy from being implemented and are now being reviewed by the European Court of Justice.

Northern Ireland's executive has also spoke in favour of introducing a similar policy - with the country's Department of Health also commissioning Sheffield University experts to publish a report.

The Salvation Army in Wales believes such a charge is necessary.

Its public affairs officer Major David Emery said: "As a church and charity, we see the devastating human consequences of alcohol abuse caused by irresponsibly low costs of budget alcohol every day.

"All the evidence suggests minimum unit pricing is the most effective and targeted policy the Welsh Government can use right now to spearhead its action on alcohol.

"The success of all other policies will be undermined if cheap drink continues to flood the supermarket shelves.

"Different types of budget-brand alcohol are being routinely sold well below our suggested 50p per unit Minimum Unit Price.

"In fact some budget drinks are being sold for only 27p per unit."

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