INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC HEALTH SAYS MINIMUM UNIT PRICING KEY TO TACKLING INEQUALITIES IN ALCOHOL-RELATED HARM
Minimum Unit Pricing could lead to fewer deaths and reduce hospital admissions
The Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) has today said that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill’s provision for Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) is key to tackling inequalities in alcohol-related harm. IPH Director of Policy, Dr Helen McAvoy, highlighted existing evidence shows that there could be 139 fewer deaths – almost three per week – and over 4,000 fewer hospital admissions annually if MUP were introduced in Ireland.
IPH is supporting the Oireachtas to enact the full provisions of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill - which is due to return to the Seanad on Wednesday this week - as it now stands including those for MUP of alcohol, labelling of alcohol, structural separation of alcohol within general stores and certain restrictions on marketing.
“Legislating for the measures included in this Bill is absolutely critical to making progress on addressing the harmful pattern of alcohol consumption in Ireland. The evidence is very clear – regulating the availability, accessibility and appeal of alcohol are the hallmarks of effective policies to reduce alcohol-related harm. In this regard, there is significant momentum in the UK to progress Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol to address the availability of cheap high strength alcohol. Just recently the Welsh Government published their Minimum Unit Pricing Bill.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill provision for Minimum Unit Pricing is of particular relevance as they can directly address the overall level of alcohol consumption in Ireland. Comprehensive studies on the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing were developed for the Departments of Health, North and South in 2014 by the University of Sheffield. These modelling studies show that Minimum Unit Pricing has significant potential to reduce alcohol-related harm in general and in particular among the most socio-economically disadvantaged communities.”
Dr McAvoy stated IPH support for the introduction of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is urgent in the context of new data highlighting the extent of harmful patterns of alcohol consumption in Ireland.
Figures recently released by the Central Statistics Office are very concerning, Dr McAvoy said as these compared estimates of harmful episodic drinking across Europe.
- Over a fifth (20.8%) of Irish men aged 18 and over engaged in binge drinking at least once a week in 2014, the highest rate in the EU and more than double the EU average of 9%.
- The rate of binge drinking at least once a week among Irish women aged 18 and over was 6.8% in 2014, the highest rate in the EU and more than double the EU average rate of 2.6%. More than a quarter (26.8%) of men aged 18-24 in Ireland engaged in heavy episodic drinking (or binge drinking) at least once a week in 2014 – this was the highest rate in the EU.
- Just under one in six (15.5%) women in Ireland aged 18-24 engaged in binge drinking at least once a week in 2014 – and again the highest rate in the EU.”
Dr McAvoy added that, in addition, figures from the Healthy Ireland Survey 2017 released this week show:
- Between one-in-four and one-in-five of Ireland’s drinkers binge drink at least once a week.
- The majority of male drinkers (58%) binge drink on a typical drinking occasion and unemployment was associated with a higher likelihood of binge drinking.
“IPH supports the enactment of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill as a critical component in addressing the significant risk of harm associated with alcohol-related violence, crime and injury as well as the longer term alcohol-related harms to mental and physical health” Dr McAvoy concluded.
Notes to Editors
Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) The Institute of Public Health in Ireland is an all-island body which supports cooperation on public health North and South to promote collective action for sustained improvements in health with a particular focus on addressing health inequalities.
North South Alcohol Policy Advisory Group (NSAPAG) IPH chairs and provides support to the North South Alcohol Policy Advisory Group established in 2012 by the Chief Medical Officers in both jurisdictions to facilitate all-island cooperation on policies to reduce alcohol related harm.
Notes on Sources
The modelling study referred to here is ‘Model-based appraisal of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in the Republic of Ireland – an adaption of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model version 3. September 2014. Access here
Heavy episodic drinking is defined in this table as ingesting more than 60g of pure ethanol on a single occasion, which is the equivalent in Ireland of three pints of beer or six pub measures of spirits (Source = Women and Men in Ireland, 2016 Table 5.17 (XLS 14KB))
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