Ireland: Explaining Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing
Driven by the positive results of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in Scotland, Ireland will be introducing MUP as soon as possible.
Results showed that alcohol consumption in Scotland has dropped to its lowest levels since the 1990s when records began after MUP was brought in last year.
What is MUP in Ireland?
Minimum unit pricing is a floor price below which alcohol can’t be sold. It is a section of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 that has not yet been commenced.
The Act states that the cheapest price for a gram of alcohol is 10 cent. A standard alcohol drink has 10 grams of alcohol in it, meaning the lowest price for one standard drink is now €1.
Status of MUP in Ireland
The Public Health (Alcohol) Act was adopted in October 2018 with a timeline outlining when different sections would commence over the coming few years.
The Act was supported by most parties and was pushed forward through the Dáil and Seanad. However, aspects of it were opposed by the Independent Alliance and some lobbyists since 2015 when the Bill was first brought forward before becoming an Act in 2018.
The minimum unit pricing section of the Act is being discussed now after data was published in June about minimum unit pricing in Scotland.
In Ireland, minimum unit pricing and other sections of the 2018 Act need a separate government decision to commence, which is why it hasn’t started yet despite being signed into law.
The Minister for Health Simon Harris is intending to seek a revised government decision to allow minimum pricing to commence as soon as possible.
Possibility of cross-border alcohol trade
One question that arises is whether people of the Irish Republic will simply go to Nothern Ireland (part of UK) to purchase alcohol cheaper.
For this reason, the Minister for Health in the Republic and the North were in agreement to act simultaneously on MUP to avoid negative impacts on trade across the border.
However, Minister Harris aims to move fast to introduce MUP just within the republic to reduce the considerable harm that cheap alcohol is currently causing.
The mechanism behind MUP
Cheap alcohol with high alcohol content such as supermarkets’ own-brands of vodka and gin will be affected by MUP. These brands will no longer be able to sell at the low prices thereby, reducing affordability of alcohol.
For example, Tesco’s Nikita Imperial Vodka 700ml will increase from €12.99 to €20.71, a rise of €7.72 and the cheap beer Dutch Gold will increase by 45c per can in an 8 pack.
Restricting affordability is one of the policy measures recommended by the WHO to reduce alcohol consumption and prevent and reduce related harm.
Other provisions in the Act
23 sections of the Act on new restrictions on advertising and selling alcohol products were signed into law in November 2018 by Simon Harris to take effect over three years. These include
- Health warnings, alcohol contents and energy contents of alcohol products on their containers,
- Restrictions on advertising and sponsorship of alcohol products,
- Prohibition of alcohol advertising on vehicles or transport stations and within 200m of a school, creche or local authority playground,
- Cinema advertising of alcohol will be prohibited except in films with an 18 cert or in a licensed premises in a cinema,
- Kid’s clothes that promote alcohol will be banned.
By strengthening their alcohol Act according to global evidence-based measures Ireland aims to reduce alcohol consumption and prevent and decrease the harm it causes to people, families and communities in Ireland.
The Bill and the Act is a very progressive piece of legislation, but it’s only progressive if it’s implemented and at the moment we only have sight of four or five minor aspects of the Act that are going to be implemented,” said Eunan McKinney from Alcohol Action Ireland, as per The Journal.