Wales is introducing a minimum price for alcohol in a bid to call time on the number of drink-related deaths and hospital admissions – the first country in the UK to make such a move.
The new law – Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol)(Wales) – will make it illegal to sell or supply alcohol below the minimum price and aim to help heavy drinkers cut back.
The Government has not yet set the rate, but is using 50p a unit as an example.
In 2015, there were 463 alcohol-rated deaths in Wales and there are 50,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions annually, costing £120m.
According to the charity Alcohol Concern, drinkers can exceed the recommended 14 units in Wales for as little as £2.52 – or 18p a unit.
The Welsh Government estimates that a 50p minimum price would save 53 lives a year and reduce the number of admissions by 1,400 annually.
It could save the NHS in Wales more than £130m over 20 years, relieving the impact on services such as A&E, said the Government.
Public health minister Rebecca Evans said the move ‘could have an important impact on the levels of harmful and hazardous drinking in Wales – reducing alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm, including alcohol-related deaths and hospitalisations, and the costs associated with those harms.’
Introducing the bill yesterday, she said: ‘This bill is aimed at protecting the health of harmful and hazardous drinkers who tend to consume larger amounts of low-cost and high-alcohol products.’
The chairman of the BMA’s Welsh council Dr David Bailey said the move could save lives.
He said: ‘While alcohol in moderation forms part of many people’s social behaviour, alcohol excess or addiction destroys lives. It is associated with crime, violence and antisocial behaviour, and can impact significantly on family and community life.’
Dr Bailey added: ‘BMA Cymru Wales has previously called for such measures to ensure that alcohol cannot be sold below cost – in effect, making it cheaper than water to purchase.’
He said sales of alcohol below 50p a unit make up 72% of the beer sales in Welsh shops and supermarkets. The minimum price should not be lower than 50p, he added.