Minimum unit price for alcohol would save lives and reduce crime in Wales – new report

Introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol would reduce alcohol consumption, alcohol-related deaths, hospital admissions and crime, an independent study reveals.

The study, commissioned by the Welsh Government, concludes that introducing a minimum unit price of 50p would be worth £882m to the Welsh economy in terms of reductions in illness, crime and sickness absence over 20 years.

Ministers commissioned experts at Sheffield University to look at the impact of a minimum unit price for alcohol if introduced in Wales – the Public Health White Paper contained such a proposal.

The research also models how such a move would impact on people’s spending habits in Wales.

The report’s key findings include:

•minimum unit pricing (MUP) policies would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harms, including alcohol-related deaths, hospitalisations, crimes and workplace absences, and the costs associated with those harms

•a ban selling alcohol for below the cost of duty plus the VAT payable on that duty would have a negligible impact on alcohol consumption or related harms

•MUP policies would only have a small impact on ‘moderate drinkers’. Larger impacts would be experienced by ‘increasing risk drinkers’, with the most substantial effects being experienced by ‘high risk drinkers’

•MUP policies would have a larger impact on those in poverty, particularly ‘high risk drinkers’, than those not in poverty. However, those in poverty also experience larger relative gains in health and the ‘high risk drinkers’ are estimated to marginally reduce their spending due to their reduced drinking under higher MUP levels.

The Sheffield report also outlines the estimated impacts of a minimum unit price policy of 50p per unit. The key findings from this are:

•across the whole population, 38.4% of units purchased would be affected

•across the whole population, mean weekly consumption is estimated to fall by 4%

•across the whole population, estimated spending increases by 1.6% or £10 per drinker per year or 19p per week

•effects on health are estimated to be substantial, with alcohol-attributable deaths estimated to reduce by approximately 53 per year after 20 years, by which time the full effects of the policy will be seen

•crime is estimated to fall by 3,700 offences a year overall. A similar reduction is seen across the three categories of crime – violent crimes, criminal damage and robbery, burglary and theft

•workplace absence is estimated to be reduced by 10,000 days per year

•the total societal value of these reductions in health, crime and workplace harms is estimated at £882m over the 20 year period modelled.