Alcohol price sets to rise in Wales 

The Minimum Unit Price for Alcohol passed the first stage in the Welsh Assembly. How could it impact health and consumption across the country?

You will have to spend more money if you’d like to drink alcohol Credit Hans Vivek

People in Wales would have to pay more for alcohol as a new law is expected to enter into force by 2019.

This new bill aims to reduce alcohol consumption since a 2016 report shows that 29.7% people in Wales tended to binge drink on their heaviest drinking day. Setting a 50p minimum unit price could save up to 60 lives each year, according to the Welsh Government.

“Drinkers respond strongly to the price of alcohol, so in simple terms when the price of alcohol goes up, people drink less,” says Andrew Misell, Alcohol Concern’s Director for Wales. “We know that certain drinks at the moment are sold particularly cheaply relative to their alcoholic strength.”

In 2016, to prevent health risks, the UK’s chief medical officers lowered the alcohol unit for men to 14 units, putting it at the same level as for women. This falls into the alcohol strategy launched by the Welsh government to reduce consumption.



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There has been a recent rise in 2016 of alcohol-related death, as there was 506 cases in Wales, an increase of 8.9% compared to the previous year.

“The British drinking culture does not have a great reputation. So anything we can do to reduce that is going to be helpful,” says Andrew.

If passed, according to this new law, the price must be in line with the percentage strength of alcohol, the quantity and the price specified for being the minimum unit price.

Considering a minimum price at 50p, a litre of vodka would cost approximately £20, slightly more than the current pricing.

Discount in a supermarket might be impossible credit: WU-YI

Some groups would find it particularly difficult according to Andrew. “Where we would have to work hard is amongst people that are drinking really heavily and buy the cheapest alcohol. That alcohol is going to become more expensive. And some products may disappear from the market,” says Andrew.

People might want to go to bars as it would be cheaper for various drinks. Credit: David straight

A more positive outcome could be for pubs, according to Misell. “When we went around the bars, asking about the price, we couldn’t find anything for less than 98p per unit and the proposal minimum price is 50p per unit. Pubs are already selling well above the minimum price. I think what would be interesting to see is whether it does actually encourage people back into the pubs,” says Andrew.

According to Simon Knevett-Jones, the general manager of Cardiff Bar, his customers will keep coming to his premise as usual. “I don’t think it’ll affect people’s habits when they go out to drink in a pub or bar. I would say that on the whole, most of our customers come to us because of the quality of our craft beer selection.

“The story would be a lot different for shop bought alcohol however where alcohol is often used as a loss leader to entice people into the store.”

According to Andrew, supermarkets would stand to suffer the most as “the discount would become much more difficult because a lot of this discount takes the price down below the minimum price.”

As Rafiq Mohammed, the owner of Discount Market in Cardiff, said, ” We will lose a lot of business, we already lost a lot over the last period when the government decided to change the pricing on alcohol that was 7.5%.”

But what about regular drinkers? For Cecily Morgan, 20, of Newport, nothing will change. “I will continue to buy alcohol in supermarkets because it will still be cheaper than bars.”

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