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Potential Impact of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol in Ireland: Evidence from the National Alcohol Diary Survey

27 Oct 2016

One of the main provisions of the Irish Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in Ireland, set at 1.00/standard drink. We sought to identify who will be most affected by the introduction of a MUP, examining the relationship between harmful alcohol consumption, personal income, place of purchase and price paid for alcohol.

A nationally representative survey of 3187 respondents aged 18–75 years, completing a diary of their previous week's alcohol consumption. The primary outcome was purchasing alcohol at <1.00/standard drink; secondary outcome was purchasing alcohol at <1.00/standard drink off-sales. Primary exposures were harmful alcohol consumption (AUDIT-C > 5), low personal annual income (<20,000) and place of purchase (off- or- on-sales).

One in seven respondents (14%) spent <1.00/standard drink, with a median spend of 0.78/standard drink. High-risk drinkers (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.09–2.23), men (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.43–2.66), people on low income (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.20–2.23) and those purchasing alcohol off-sales (OR 21.9, 95% CI 12.5–38.1) were most likely to report purchasing alcohol at <1.00/standard drink. Forty-four per cent of alcohol consumed was purchased off-sales. Of those purchasing off-sales, 30% bought cheap alcohol. High-risk drinkers, men and those on low income were most likely to report paying < 1.00/standard drink off-sales.

Heavy drinkers, men and those on low income seek out the cheapest alcohol. The introduction of a MUP in Ireland is likely to target those suffering the greatest harm, and reduce alcohol-attributable mortality in Ireland. Further prospective studies are needed to monitor consumption trends and associated harms following the introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Alcohol and Alcoholism