INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH on drinking indicates that Irish society would benefit from a minimum price being set for alcohol.
Earlier this year Scotland introduced new laws to tackle binge-drinking, setting the lowest price for alcohol at 50p (60c) per unit.
However, this is currently being challenged in the European courts.
Junior Minister Alex White said, at a recent Alcohol Action Ireland conference, that he intends to bring the issue of alcohol before Cabinet before the end of the year.
Minimum pricing is the lowest price at which an alcohol product can be sold, the cost of a product based on the number of units it contains.
To put it simply, the more units of alcohol in a bottle, the higher the price.
As such, minimum pricing affects people directly in relation to how much they drink. This means that minimum pricing will primarily affect heavy drinkers (i.e., those that drink most), as well as children and young people who are more likely to consume lowcost alcohol.
Minimum pricing has little impact on those who drink within low risk weekly limits, i. e., moderate drinkers, as, by definition, they drink less and they tend not to buy the cheapest products.
The World Health Organisation's (2009) review of 32 alcohol policy measures found that in terms of the degree of effectiveness, the breadth of research support and the extent to which they have been tested crossculturally and the relative expense of implementation found the alcohol policies most effective in reducing alcohol related harms and costs are policies which put controls on price and availability, drink driving laws and brief interventions.
Minimum pricing policy increases the price of the cheapest drink, which is the drink that tends to be purchased by heavy drinkers as well as young drinkers.
As such, this pricing policy has little impact on those who drink within low-risk weekly limits.
Those weekly limits are 14 units for a woman and 21 for a man.
At current prices, it's possible for a women to reach her weekly limit for low risk drinking for just €6.30 a week while a man can reach this limit with a spend of less than €10.
The rise in the availability of alcohol alongside a drop in price has led to vast increases in alcohol- related harms and costs.