The Institute of Public Health welcomes a new report published by the independent Commission on Alcohol Harm.
The commission found that a new UK-wide alcohol strategy is needed to to address alcohol related harms in Northern Ireland and across the UK, and that a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol should be introduced.
The Commission on Alcohol Harm was established by MPs and alcohol health experts to examine the full extent of alcohol harm in the UK, including Northern Ireland. Dr Helen McAvoy, Director of Policy at the Institute of Public Health, provided evidence to the Commission.
In its final report, the Commission outlined a number of recommendations for reducing harm.
- The introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Northern Ireland and England. MUP is already implemented in Scotland and Wales. MUP sets a floor price below which alcohol cannot legally be sold and is based on the amount of alcohol in a product. MUP is a targeted measure, designed to stop strong alcohol being sold at very low prices in the supermarkets, shops, and off-licences. Research has shown that MUP could reduce Northern Ireland’s alcohol consumption, save lives, and result in 2,000 fewer hospital admissions a year. Data from Scotland suggests that MUP has led to a reduction of alcohol, particularly among the heaviest drinkers. Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann, in a statement in July, committed to a full consultation on the introduction of MUP in Northern Ireland within the year.
- Restrictions on alcohol advertising and marketing – such as ending sports sponsorship, better information for consumers, enhanced support for people drinking at hazardous and harmful levels, and more action to address drink driving which has remained high during the pandemic.
- Reducing the £3.5bn cost of alcohol to the NHS would help to relieve pressure on the service and free up capacity to respond to the consequences of COVID-19.
- The new alcohol strategy must include targeted measures to support families and protect children from harm, including alcohol-fuelled violence.
Speaking about the report, Dr Helen McAvoy at the Institute said: “I welcome the Commission’s report which recognises that alcohol is a complex issue and can affect individuals, families and communities. While progress has been made, the evidence is clear that too many people are affected by the harms caused by alcohol. Northern Ireland has particular vulnerabilities, it is a more socioeconomically deprived region of the UK, which raises the level of alcohol related harm. We’ll never treat ourselves out of this situation, we have to start with prevention.”
Figures show that over 12,000 people are admitted to hospitals in Northern Ireland every year with alcohol related illnesses.
- Read the Commission on Alcohol Harm Report here.
- View the Institute of Public Health briefing paper submitted to the Commission here.
About the Institute of Public Health
The Institute of Public Health informs public policy to support healthier populations in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Institute has researchers and policy specialists based in offices in Dublin and Belfast and is jointly funded by the Departments of Health, North and South.