New Publication from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group: Model-based appraisal of the comparative impact of Minimum Unit Pricing and taxation policies in Wales

Three quarters of all alcohol consumed in Wales is drunk by less than a quarter of the adult population who are hazardous or harmful drinkers and spend up to £2,882 per year on booze, research has revealed.

A report looking into the potential impact of minimum unit pricing and taxation policies in Wales was published Thursday 22nd February by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group at the University of Sheffield.

The publication, which found that the 3% of the population who are harmful drinkers, account for 27% of all alcohol consumed, comes after the Welsh Government announced a new Bill that, if agreed by the National Assembly, will introduce a minimum price for the sale of alcohol.

The Bill, which is designed to reduce hazardous and harmful drinking would make it an offence for alcohol to be supplied below that price.

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Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething said: “People who drink alcohol at hazardous and harmful levels drink 75% of the alcohol consumed in Wales.

“The introduction of a minimum unit price would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption among these groups, as well as reducing the number of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalisations.”

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 and, in 2015, there were 463 alcohol-related deaths in Wales.

The report reveals the population of Wales buys 50% of its alcohol for less than 55p per unit, 37% for less than 50p per unit and 27% for less than 45p per unit, with heavier drinkers being more likely to buy alcohol sold below these thresholds.

Mr Gething said: “The report shows the greatest impact of a minimum unit price would be on the most deprived harmful drinkers, while moderate drinkers would experience only small impacts on their alcohol consumption and spending.

“This is because moderate drinkers tend to buy alcohol which would be subject to little or no increase in price under the policy.

“If passed, this law will potentially save lives.”

The research also shows harmful drinkers spend an average £2,882 a year on alcohol, or around £7.80 per day, compared to £1,209 for hazardous drinkers and £276 for moderate drinkers.

The Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, commissioned by the Welsh Government in June 2017 to update a 2014 appraisal of the likely impact of a range of minimum unit pricing policies, concluded a minimum unit price set at between 35p and 70p would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption among hazardous and, particularly, harmful drinkers.

Research highlights:

  • Moderate drinkers drink an average of 211 units of alcohol per year compared to 1,236 for hazardous drinkers and 3,924 for harmful drinkers.
  • Harmful drinkers spend an average £2,882 a year on alcohol compared to £1,209 for hazardous drinkers and £276 for moderate drinkers.
  • Alcohol-attributable deaths and hospital admissions are concentrated in hazardous and particularly harmful drinkers who are more deprived.

External news coverage:

75% of alcohol in Wales is drunk by just over a fifth of the population according to new report – ITV News

Minimum alcohol price help call for ‘hazardous’ drinkers – BBC News

75% of alcohol drunk in Wales consumed by 22% of the population, report says – Guernsey Press

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Important new report on alcohol & emergency services published by @InstAlcStud #alcohol

Important new report on alcohol and the emergency services from UKCTAS collaborators at the Institute of Alcohol Studies!

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Press coverage:

Police call for end to 24-hour licensing over alcohol-related violence – The Guardian

24-hour booze mayhem: A&E staff, paramedics and police spend a quarter of their time dealing with drunks – Daily Mail

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Drinking guidelines are a poor fit with Britain’s heavy drinking habits.

The Government’s current alcohol guidelines are unrealistic and largely ignored because they have little relevance to people’s drinking habits!

~According to a new report by the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group (SARG) in collaboration with the University of Sterling.

The study, which is the first of its kind, explored how drinkers make sense of the current UK drinking guidelines which suggest men should not regularly exceed three to four units of alcohol a day, while women should not regularly drink more than two to three units daily.

Leading researchers from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, which includes the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) and the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling conducted focus groups to see how the current guidelines were perceived by people aged between 19-65 years-old and from varied socioeconomic backgrounds.

The findings, published yesterday (5 August 2015) in the journal Addiction, show that the guidelines are generally disregarded as the daily intake suggestions are deemed irrelevant in a country where most people don’t drink everyday but may drink heavily at the weekend.

The results also revealed that people think the recommended quantities of drink are unrealistic, as they don’t recognise that many people are motivated to drink to get drunk. Continue reading