Belfast Telegraph

Minimum price 'would cut drinking'

A quarter of problem drinkers would consume a lot less if the minimum price for a unit of alcohol was set at 70p, research has revealed.

Health Minister Edwin Poots is considering the measure to protect young people, and doctors have warned of the health dangers of binge drinking.

A survey has shown almost a third of recent drinkers overdid it. It also found that three-fifths of those asked favoured minimum unit pricing.

If minimum pricing is introduced, it would set a lowest price for a unit of alcohol, equivalent in some cases to a half-pint of beer or small glass of wine. Therefore, the more alcohol a drink contains, the more expensive it will be.

Stormont's health department has published the results of its fifth Adult Drinking Patterns Survey. It was conducted over October and November last year and 1,987 interviews were carried out.

The main findings surrounding minimum pricing included:

:: Of all those who drank, 4% said they would drink a lot less if a minimum unit price was set at 40p, compared to 17% doing so if it was set at 70p a unit;

:: For problem drinkers 6% would drink a lot less if a minimum unit price was set at 40p, compared to a quarter if it was set at 70p;

:: Almost a third of those who drank in the week before the survey had engaged in at least one binge session, with men more likely to do so than women. The proportion of male drinkers that exceeded the recommended daily limit on three or more days in the previous week was more than double that of women.

Almost 3,000 people in Northern Ireland have died from alcohol-related illness between 2002 and 2012.

The ambulance service is to provide major incident training to medics at Belfast's Odyssey Arena after dozens of drunk young people fell ill at a gig earlier this year.

More than 100 people received medical treatment in and around the venue where Dutch DJ Hardwell was playing to a crowd of 10,000. A total of 18 were taken to hospital, but none were in a serious condition.

Mr Poots has said alcohol was available at "pocket money prices" and added many young people turned up at the Odyssey pre-loaded with drink. Many treated were aged under 16.

The departments of health and social development are considering whether to introduce minimum pricing.

Research to assess the effects of the introduction of minimum pricing in Northern Ireland has been completed.

It investigated the effects of a range of pricing levels, from 35p to 75p per unit, alongside other pricing options like a ban on promotions. The report is being considered by the minister.

A health department spokeswoman said: "The minister has previously stated that minimum unit pricing is not a silver bullet to resolve problem drinking but that minimum unit pricing is potentially a targeted way of making sure strong alcohol products are sold at a reasonable price.

"It targets the strongest cheapest drinks, and these are often the products that cause most harm."

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