Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.40 4 May 2021


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The Cabinet has approved introducing minimum unit pricing for alcohol from the start of next year.

Minimum unit pricing is a 'floor price' beneath which alcohol cannot legally be sold, and is based on the amount of alcohol in a product.

The minimum price will be set at 10 cent per gram - meaning an increase across the board for the cheapest cans of beer, bottles of wine and vodka.

The new system is expected to take effect from January 1st 2022.

Minister of State at the Department of Health, Frank Feighan, has said it will ensure that cheap strong alcohol is not available at what he calls 'pocket money' prices.

Mr Feighan said the move is very positive.

"I very much welcome this - it's a public health initiative and it targets harmful drinkers who buy cheap drink.

"Our modelling from Scotland shows that it impacts the high-risk, heavy drinkers the most because they purchase strong, cheap alcohol products".

Alcohol Action Ireland has said the measure is about tackling the cheapest alcohol and reducing harm amongst the heaviest drinkers.

While last week Drinks Ireland, which represents manufacturers and distributors, said the move could see a 38% difference in prices North of the border.

Patricia Callan said there needed to be an all-island approach to this.

"When the Cabinet last made a decision on this, the existing Cabinet decision is to align with Northern Ireland in introducing that.

"And that was reaffirmed in the current Programme for Government.

"We have loads of economic data in terms of cross-border shopping: typically, pre-COVID, about 7% of total alcohol purchases already happened in the North.

"That's because of the excise differential - we have the second-highest excise in the EU here in the Republic - and obviously exchange rates would also amplify that."

Ms Callan said with the introduction of minimum pricing here, the price difference will increase from an average of 27% to as high as 38%.

"Therefore it's much more likely that you will see a cross-border shopping increase, and that will actually lose this Government about €94m in revenue in terms of taxation - without actually achieving any public health benefits.

"People are still consuming, they're just going North to buy the product".

Meanwhile a study on the impact of minimum unit pricing found the measure will not put off the majority of drinkers.

Research from 2016, led by Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), showed only 14% will feel its affects.

It found that the cheapest alcohol products are favoured by the heaviest drinkers, regardless of their income levels.

The RCSI and the Health Research Board examined the relationship between high-risk drinking, personal income, place of purchase and price paid for alcohol.


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