The Welsh government introduced a MUP of 50 pence per unit of pure alcohol which came into force on March 2, 2020. The policy was hard won with Portugal mounting heavy opposition in the EU institutions on behalf of the alcohol industry.
But now, new data from a recent survey show that the effort was fruitful as alcohol use has dropped in Wales due to MUP.
Researchers from OnePoll on the request of Alcohol Change UK surveyed 1000 Welsh adults on how the MUP impacted their alcohol use.
The survey found the following:
- Three-quarters of respondents said that they knew about MUP (minimum unit pricing), compared with just half of alcohol users in Wales when asked a year ago.
- Of people who were aware of MUP, 10% said they were consuming less alcohol because of it.
The increased awareness was probably because of the Welsh government’s commitment to increasing awareness on the MUP policy among the general public, retailers, healthcare providers and anyone affected by the policy.
The observed positive results benefit mostly people from lower-socio economic groups with alcohol problems. MUP has forced alcohol producers to scale down massive alcohol bottles of 3 litres and 2.5 litres to much smaller 1 litre or 2 litre bottles.
Prior to MUP, big 3-litre bottles of 7.5% ABV cider were on sale in Wales for as little £3.99 – just 18p per unit. At 50p per unit, these same bottles cannot be sold for less than £11.25 which has priced them out of the market,” said Andrew Misell, Director for Wales at Alcohol Change UK, as per Shropshire Star.Andrew Misell, Director for Wales, Alcohol Change UK
The scale down in bottle sizes allows those with alcohol problems to take a break during their heavy alcohol consumption. This slows consumption, gives more time to consider consumption and gives time for healthcare providers to reach these individuals.
The assessment of Wales’ projected MUP impact conducted in 2019 prior to MUP implementation found:
- A 50p MUP would lead to 66 fewer alcohol-attributable deaths and 1,281 fewer alcohol-attributable hospital admissions per year.
- Introducing a minimum unit price of 50p is estimated to be worth £783m to the Welsh economy in terms of reducing alcohol-related illness, crime and workplace absence over 20 years.
Scotland was the first jurisdiction in the UK to implement MUP amidst heavy alcohol industry opposition and aggressive interference. Nevertheless, MUP was found to lead to only a modest impact on the alcohol industry compared to the massive gains for public health. Further, a study published in October 2019 found that while 2000 more alcohol deaths were caused in the UK due to alcohol tax cuts, the MUP policy in Scotland worked as a protective factor leading to lower levels of harm in Scotland.