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Health Minister announces review into minimum alcohol pricing

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By Q Radio News.

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced his commitment to a full consultation on Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol.

There is currently a similar scheme in place in Scotland where there a minimum price for every unit of alcohol within a drink.

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.”   

“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.”

The review of the current Alcohol and Drugs Strategy also highlighted that the number of adults drinking above the recommended guidelines of alcohol has increased from 20% to 26%.

The study also found that less young people have drunk alcohol, or fallen drunk.

The figures also show binge drinking levels have reduced over recent years.

Reacting to today's news, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster said:

“We welcome this significant and progressive step forward by Health Minister Swann.

"This is a measure that Hospitality Ulster has lobbied on for some time and it is great to see that the Minister and the Department are taking the necessary steps to consult within the next year.”

“Clearly there is an issue of the misuse of alcohol which needs to be addressed. Minimum Unit Pricing is about supporting the responsible consumption of alcohol and we are fully behind that.

"We expect that the days of alcohol being sold at pocket money prices will come to an end.”

“We are now seeing the right steps being taken by our elected representatives in updating our liquor licensing legislation and they must be commended for that.”

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