Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is boasting that Ireland has joined a small number of countries introducing minimum alcohol pricing, claiming it will ‘reduce serious illness and death from alcohol consumption’.
There is little evidence for this. In Scotland, Minimum Unit Pricing was introduced in 2018 but since then studies have found that:
- Within (hospital) emergency departments, there was no evidence of a beneficial impact of minimum unit pricing.
- There was no statistically significant change in alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance.
There was, however, some evidence that those addicted to alcohol reduce their spending on other living expenses to feed their habit.
In Ireland, the extra money gained from higher prices will go to the vendors to compensate them for the lack of sales. It will not be ring-fenced to create resources to invest in detox units.
The plain reality is that many people will take booze trips to Holyhead or Newry.
Instead of hitting the poor, a decent government would curb the power of the alcohol industry by limiting their ability to sponsor and advertise. It would embark on a public health education campaign to reduce alcohol consumption. It would invest in detox beds for those who want to come off an addiction.