Minimum unit price for alcohol 'will save lives'

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The introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol in Wales will have the greatest impact on hazardous and harmful drinkers, according to new research.

Last month the Welsh Government unveiled a new Bill that, if agreed by the National Assembly, will introduce a minimum price for the sale of alcohol.

The Welsh Government commissioned the University of Sheffield to assess the likely impact of a range of minimum unit pricing policies in Wales.

The research shows that harmful drinkers purchase almost half (46%) of their alcohol for less than 50p per unit.

They account for 4% of the drinker population, they drink 27% of, and are responsible for 20% of all spending on, all alcohol consumed in Wales.

In contrast, moderate drinkers purchase less than a quarter (22%) of their alcohol for less than 50p per unit which means it is estimated moderate drinkers would only spend #8.30 extra per year under a 50p minimum unit price.

The research also shows that a 50p minimum unit price is estimated to avoid 66 deaths and 1,281 hospital admissions per year in Wales.

And very little alcohol is sold in pubs and restaurants at below the example 50p minimum unit price threshold but 46% of off-licences sales are bought for less than 50p.

The availability of cheap, strong alcohol is estimated to lead to 50,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions a year, costing the Welsh NHS #120 million annually. In 2015, there were 463 alcohol-related deaths in Wales.

The Bill proposes to introduce a minimum price for alcohol supplied in Wales and to make it an offence for alcohol to be supplied below that price.

The level of the minimum unit price would be specified in regulations made by the Welsh Ministers.

In Scotland, the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Act was passed in June 2012 and will be introduced next year after the Supreme Court ruled recently it did not breach European law.