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Northern Ireland debates 70p-a-unit minimum alcohol price

Published:  07 March, 2011

Northern Ireland could impose a minimum price of up to 70p per unit of alcohol under plans drawn up by ministers.

Social development minister Alex Attwood and health minister Michael McGimpsey have embarked on a 16-week consultation period, during which they will test support for a minimum price of between 40p and 70p in the on and off-trade in Ulster.

The plan has been opposed by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, which says pricing does not have a direct effect on alcohol-related harm.

McGimpsey said: "In real terms, alcohol is 62% more affordable now than it was 30 years ago and research indicates that a minimum unit price of 40p and a ban on promotions could decrease consumption by 5.4%. This would mean savings of £13.5 million to the health and social care sector every year."

"We need to take significant action now and today's consultation marks an important step in changing our unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It will not come overnight, but by working in partnership and being pro-active, we will make a difference."

Attwood said: "We are in no way penalising responsible drinkers. I am though concerned about the level of alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland and in particular how heavily discounted alcohol prices contributes to the problem.

"This initiative, together with proposals and new laws on irresponsible alcohol promotions, will be important steps forward in the dealing with the use and misuse of alcohol."