Heaviest drinkers to be hit hardest by alcohol price plan
Almost 15pc of adults who drink to excess and favour the cheapest booze could be affected by the Government's plan to introduce minimum pricing, according to a new study.
The findings from the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) are the first to look at the relationship between high-risk drinking, personal income, place of purchase and price paid for alcohol.
The study, involving 3,187 adults aged between 18 and 75 who reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview, revealed:
One in seven (14pc) Irish adults who drink alcohol pay less than €1 per standard drink, which is below the minimum unit price.
Almost two-thirds of respondents reported high-risk drinking, with men being more likely to admit high-risk drinking relative to women.
The majority (69pc) of low-cost alcohol, that is booze bought below €1 per standard drink, was sourced in supermarkets.
The cheapest alcohol products were favoured by the heaviest drinkers, irrespective of income, with some 45pc of the heaviest drinkers on high and low incomes purchasing cheap alcohol.
Lead researcher Dr Gráinne Cousins, of the RCSI, told the Irish Independent: "The primary objective of the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol is to reduce alcohol-attributable harm.
"Some opponents of minimum unit pricing are concerned that consumers using alcohol in a low-risk manner will be punished with higher prices.
"Our findings do not support these concerns, as unlike tax or excise measures, the introduction of a minimum unit price would affect less than 14pc of the population.
"More importantly, from a population health perspective, we have shown that a minimum unit price of €1 per standard drink will primarily target high-risk drinkers.
"We know that people on lower incomes in Ireland suffer a disproportionate burden of alcohol-related harm.
"Our findings indicate that the health benefits of introducing a minimum unit price in Ireland will also be greatest among those on lower incomes, in terms of reductions in alcohol consumption and harm.
"Our study also suggests that men will experience greater health benefits from the introduction of a minimum unit price, which again supports this policy as a targeted strategy, as men are disproportionately affected."