Alcohol price law 'important tool' in tackling drinking


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Media captionAlcohol Concern Cymru director Andrew Misell says the alcohol price law will tackle “cheap, strong alcohol”

Assembly members have been urged to back minimum unit pricing for alcohol as a “major new and important tool” in tackling harmful drinking in Wales.

Ahead of a debate on a proposed law, Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said evidence from other countries showed a link between price and consumption.

But the minister warned minimum pricing would not work “in isolation”.

He promised an extra £1m for health boards to tackle substance misuse, amid fears drinkers may switch to drugs.

AMs will decide later whether the Welsh Government’s Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill should pass its first stage and go on to detailed consideration by assembly committees.

If passed by the assembly later in 2018, the measure should take effect 12 months after the bill’s royal assent.

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Alcohol-related admissions costs the Welsh NHS £120m a year, according to the Welsh Government

“Wales, like so many other western countries, has a problem with cheap, strong, readily-available alcohol,” Mr Gething said.

Echoing the findings of the assembly’s health committee last week, the minister said minimum pricing was “not a silver bullet” but would be “a major new and important tool in our approach to reducing alcohol consumption”.

“By introducing a minimum price, we can make a difference – as we have done with the smoking ban, which demonstrated our determination to create a different future for the people of Wales,” he said.

Mr Gething added: “I’ve been very clear that it will not work in isolation.

“Alcohol policy in Wales requires a variety of approaches, which taken together, can generate change.

“That’s why we are supporting people throughout Wales to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol, through our Substance Misuse Strategy, and end the sad spectre of people dying from drink.”

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Vaughan Gething wants people to have a “healthier relationship” with alcohol

Staff at the Huggard Centre, a Cardiff-based homelessness charity, are among those who have raised concerns at the impact of minimum alcohol pricing on the most vulnerable people.

Chief executive Richard Edwards gave a warning in February, saying: “Raising pricing alone, for legal drugs such as alcohol, may simply change one addiction for another and condemn people to a more entrenched and desperate life on the streets.”

‘500 deaths’

The Welsh Government said it spent nearly £50m a year supporting people who misused substances.

Ring-fenced money for health boards to tackle the problem was being increased by nearly £1m to over £18m.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions cost the NHS in Wales around £120m a year, the Welsh Government added, with 504 deaths from alcohol in 2016.

A law allowing a minimum unit price for alcohol was passed in Scotland in 2012 and will be introduced later this year at a level of 50p per unit.



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