herald

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Alcohol prices to rocket in joint war on abuse

THE cost of low-price, high- strength drinks like ciders, beers and own brand spirits is set to rise -- on both sides of the Border.

Health authorities in the Republic and Northern Ireland are set to introduce a minimum price for drink in a bid to battle alcohol abuse, which costs both parts of the island an estimated €4.7bn a year in healthcare, crime and loss of economic output costs, as well as several hundred deaths annually.

Government and Northern Executive Ministers agreed on the strategy at a meeting in Armagh yesterday.

Ministers for Health James Reilly and Edwin Poots and Minister of State for Health Roisin Shortall told of their plans to tackle alcohol abuse through increasing prices for low-price, high-strength drinks such as cider, beers and own brand spirits.

"Problem drinkers and young drinkers are very price sensitive and for them there is a very direct correlation between price and levels of consumption," Ms Shortall said.



Hopeful

Both administrations were closely watching the Scottish National Party's plan to bring in a minimum charge, possibly 45 to 50 pence per unit of alcohol, that is expected to be law by early summer.

"We are committed in principle to the introduction of a minimum pricing regime.... and we would be hopeful of doing that in both jurisdictions before the end of this year," she said.

Mr Poots the North's Minister for Health, said: "We want to make sure we don't have a disparity where alcohol is one price north of the Border and considerably more expensive south of the Border and vice versa."

Currently in Northern Ireland, people could buy a bottle of cider with 14 units of alcohol for £2.30 (€2.75), he said.

Increasing the minimum price to 50p per unit would bring the price up to £7.

mlavery@herald.ie

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