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Monday, March 7, 2011

Northern Ireland Minimum Alcohol Price

The British Isles have been known for their fair share of drinking, with whiskey distilleries and breweries there is never a shortage of cheap alcohol to consume. Whenever there is a large supply of alcohol produced in a given area, the price of alcohol can be very inexpensive which inevitably leads to problem drinking. There are a number of health experts and government officials who believe that by raising the price of alcohol lives can be saved. In Northern Ireland moves are being made to put a minimum price on alcohol with the hopes of doing just that. If the minimum price of alcohol is set high enough it could have a huge effect on problem drinking in Northern Ireland. Launched today by Social Development Minister Alex Attwood and Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and agreed upon by Dr Philip McGarry, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland who believes if the new mandate is to be effective the floor price must be set high enough to combat problem drinking.

"Psychiatrists see the effect of alcohol abuse on patients every day, and it's clear this is exacerbated by irresponsible promotions that encourage people to drink more than they otherwise would," Dr McGarry said. Culture drinking on both side of the Atlantic has gone out of control, to the point where anyone can afford to buy alcohol even after they have lost everything. An estimated 75-80% of alcohol is consumed by the 20-25% of people who misuse it. Heavy drinkers, buy 15 times more alcohol than moderate drinkers and spend 10 times as much a year, and pay 40% less per liter of pure alcohol which costs much less.

"This isn't a case of psychiatrists saying that alcohol per se is bad, for most people there is no problem with people enjoying a drink. It is about facing up to the consequences of harmful drinking, particularly among young people where affordability is a key factor," Dr McGarry said.

"The increase in problem drinking has coincided with alcohol becoming much more affordable, two thirds cheaper in relative terms than in 1980," he said.

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