Call for minimum pricing to reduce human cost of alcohol related harm

The introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol will contribute to reducing the “huge” human and economic cost of alcohol related harm, it was claimed this week.

Evelyn Fanning of the HSE West’s health promotion department - who is the chairperson of the Galway Healthy Cities Alcohol Forum - explains that minimum pricing sets a price below which no alcohol beverage can be sold and is based on the amount of alcohol in a product measured in units or grams.

“It predominantly affects the price of cheaper alcohol sold off-trade (off licences, shops/supermarkets, petrol stations that are licensed to sell alcohol ) which is now the biggest supplier of alcohol in the country.”

Galway Healthy Cities Alcohol Forum, Galway City Council and Galway City Joint Policing Committee are supporting the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol as it recognises the need for national government to regulate issues regarding the supply of alcohol.

Galway was the first city in Ireland to develop a strategy to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm, its Healthy Cities Alcohol Forum has prepared a submission requesting the government to take urgent action to introduce minimum pricing.

The World Health Organization (WHO ) has made it clear there is “undisputable” evidence that the price of alcohol matters and that if it goes up alcohol-related harm goes down as alcohol is less available, according to the HSE West.

Evidence also suggests that harmful drinkers tend to buy alcohol that is cheaper than that bought by low-risk drinkers. Therefore, a minimum pricing policy is beneficial in that it targets the drinkers causing the most harm both to themselves and to society, while having little effect on the spending of moderate drinkers.

Galway city councillor Niall McNelis outlines that the taxpayer is actually paying double. “In addition to the estimated €3.7 billion a year due to health, crime/public order and other costs such as workplace absenteeism and litter clean up; when alcohol is sold below cost price, the retailer is entitled to a VAT refund on the difference between the cost price and the below-cost sale price. In effect, this means that the government is subsidising large retailers who can afford to sell alcohol at below-cost price.”

There is strong support from all sectors and communities in Galway City to address the issue of alcohol-related harm, and the introduction of minimum pricing is one action that will contribute to reducing the huge human and economic cost of alcohol-related harm.

Alcohol Action Ireland reports that 88 deaths every month in Ireland are directly attributable to alcohol and there are almost twice as many deaths due to alcohol in Ireland as due to all other drugs combined. According to the World Health Organisation the harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths each year. A total of 320,000 young people between the age of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes resulting in nine per cent of all deaths in that age group.

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