Health Minister Robin Swann has announced his commitment to a full consultation on Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol.
The Minister said: “The impact of alcohol misuse is being felt by too many families and communities across Northern Ireland on a daily basis. We need to consider fully every option available to us to reduce this blight on our society. A review of the current Alcohol and Drugs Strategy was undertaken in 2019 and indicated that alcohol-related deaths continued to rise over the course of the strategy and alcohol-related admissions to hospital also increased from 9,573 in 2008/09 to 11,636 in 2016/17. The impact alcohol has on our health service is clear and we must try to address the issue.”
The review of the current Alcohol and Drugs Strategy also highlighted a number of positive outcomes:
- the proportion of adults drinking above the recommended guidelines has reduced (from 26% in 2010/11 to 20% in 2017/18);
- there was a significant reduction in the proportion of young people who had ever drank alcohol (55% in 2007 to 32% in 2016);
- the proportion of young people who had ever been drunk also fell (55% in 2007 to 45% in 2016); and
- the percentage of adults who binge drink also reduced over the course of the strategy (38% in 2005 to 31% in 2013).
In conclusion, Minister Swann said: “I have been closely following the Scottish Government introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing on Alcohol since 2018 and have been noting with interest the early positive evaluation reports. My Department has been working in conjunction with key stakeholders on developing a new substance use strategy and this will be issued for public consultation later this year. As part of the strategy, there will be a commitment to holding a full public consultation on the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol in Northern Ireland within one year.”