Swann seeks views on Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol

Date published: 22 February 2022

Health Minister Robin Swann has today launched a new public consultation on the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol into Northern Ireland.

doh latest news

Minister Swann said: “I made a commitment that I would hold a public consultation on the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol in Northern Ireland within a year of the launch of the new Substance Use Strategy. I launched our new substance use strategy on 7 September 2021 and today I make good on my promise and launch this public consultation so that the people of Northern Ireland can have their say on this important policy.

For many years now alcohol has been our drug of choice in Northern Ireland and this is reflected in our high rates of alcohol specific deaths.  I believe that the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing will have a direct impact and help to reduce the number of these deaths over time.

I have been greatly encouraged by the positive evidence coming out about the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing within Scotland and firmly believe that its introduction here has the potential to be a key population-level health measure to address the harms related to alcohol consumption and help to prevent individuals coming to harm in the first place.”

Minister Swann continued: “Research has shown that the full social cost to the Northern Ireland economy of alcohol-related harm could be as high as £900m per year, with up to £250m directly borne by the Health sector alone and a further £383m borne by the Justice sector. However, this financial burden can never fully describe the incalculable impact that alcohol related harm has on our Society.

"The evidence is quite clear that price is a key factor in driving alcohol-related harm. Alcohol is 74% more affordable now than it was 30 years ago, and the availability of alcohol at very low prices is encouraging excessive and, most importantly, harmful consumption.

"Now I want to hear the views of the public and I would urge everyone to have their say and respond to this consultation.”

The consultation document is available on-line Department of Health (health-ni.gov.uk).

Notes to editors: 

  1. Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol (MUP) is a population-level health measure that would set a minimum price that could be charged per unit (8 mg or 10ml) of alcohol. Any alcoholic beverage has a set number of units. The purpose of MUP ensures that a drink cannot then be sold for a price lower that the number of units multiplied by the MUP. MUP increases the price of drinks, such as own-brand spirits, high strength beers and white cider, which have high alcohol content but are usually very cheap. The more units a drink contains, the stronger it is and therefore the more expensive it will be.
  1. MUP was introduced in Scotland in May 2018. The first results of the evaluation of the change are beginning to emerge and initial signs are very promising that it is an effective measure, but it is too early to be definitive. NI’s new Substance Use Strategy contains a commitment that a full consultation will be held on MUP within the next year.
  1. Our new 10 year substance use strategy, Preventing Harm, Empowering Recovery, was launched by Minister Swann on 7 September 2021. The new strategy can be viewed on the DoH website at the following link: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/substance-use-strategy-2021-31.
  1. NISRA publish the alcohol specific death statistics on an annual basis.  The most recent figures for 2020, were published on 27 January 202., https://www.nisra.gov.uk/news/annual-2020-alcohol-specific-deaths-statistics
  1. These are a stark reminder of the tragic impact alcohol related harm has on individuals, families and communities across Northern Ireland. There is some emerging evidence that patterns of drinking may have changed during the pandemic – with potentially more people drinking at home on a regular basis. The 4% increase to 351 alcohol specific deaths in 2020 from 336 in 2019 may well reflect that trend.
  1. Modelling for Northern Ireland estimates that 50p MUP would:
  • Reduce alcohol consumption by 5.7% (1.6% for moderate drinkers, 5% for hazardous drinkers, and 8.6% for harmful drinkers)
  • Increase spending by only 0.8%
  • Lead to a reduction of 63 alcohol-related deaths per year (after 20 years when the full effect of the policy will be felt) and a reduction of 2,460 alcohol related admissions to hospital.
  • Crime is estimated to fall by 5,293 offences per year (from year 1).
  • Workplace absence is estimated to be reduced by 35,000 days per year.
  • The total of these reductions in harms is estimated at £956m over the 20 years – with savings in health costs of £59m, savings in crime costs of £292m, savings in workplace costs of £46m, and Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) gains of £559m. 
  1. The consultation is available on the DoH website and can be completed either on-line or by sending responses directly to the Health Development Policy Branch, Department of Health, C4 Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SJ.
  2. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk
  3. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt
  4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

Share this page

Back to top