Independent expert panel recommends introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Wales

The Welsh Government should introduce minimum unit pricing to address alcohol-related harm among people most affected by hazardous and harmful levels of drinking, an independent expert panel has recommended.

In a report to the Health Minister, the Welsh Government’s Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse (APoSM) concludes the evidence shows that “the introduction of minimum unit pricing would target the most vulnerable groups in our communities and ameliorate the negative impacts of alcohol misuse.”

It says alcohol misuse accounted for more than 5,000 deaths in England and Wales in each of the last 10 years. Wales – which had 504 alcohol-related deaths in 2012 alone – has a higher rate of alcohol-related deaths than England.

On the basis of the available evidence, the members of APoSM unanimously recommend that the Welsh Government should introduce minimum unit pricing as a means of protecting vulnerable groups who are most affected by hazardous and harmful levels of drinking from alcohol-related harms.

Kyrie Ll James, chair of the Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse, said:

“Alcohol health and social harm problems are preventable. Expert evidence and research confirms cheaper drinks are favoured by those who drink hazardously or harmfully, and a minimum unit price would have a disproportionate targeting effect on problematic drinking, reducing alcohol problems and achieving health and other benefits for individuals and our communities as a whole.

“APoSM’s view is that a minimum unit price is an effective mechanism through which alcohol-related harm can be addressed.”

Mark said:

“In January, I asked the Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse to review the literature on minimum unit pricing, offer views on its relevance to Wales and to advise on what further work could be undertaken by the Welsh Government to supplement or strengthen the work on alcohol availability. I would like to thank its members for their work in developing this detailed report.

“Earlier this year, I set out a number of radical proposals for our forthcoming Public Health Bill, including the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol of 50p per unit.

“There is indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters. It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has improved substantially so has alcohol-related death and disease.

“A minimum unit price will make a strong contribution to preventing alcohol overuse and misuse and reducing alcohol-associated illnesses. The panel’s report supports this view.

“We will now develop our proposals further with a view to introducing the Public Health Bill in early 2015.”