Minimum alcohol price would prevent harm, experts say

Minimum pricing plans have been referred to the European Court of Justice

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Plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in Wales have been backed by a panel advising ministers on substance misuse.

Experts said the measure would protect vulnerable people, boost public health and improve community life.

The Welsh government has already proposed a minimum alcohol price of 50p per unit.

It could become law as part of a Public Health Bill for Wales planned for early 2015.

'Effective mechanism'

The report follows a request by Health Minister Mark Drakeford in January that the Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse look at the idea of minimum pricing.

Panel chair Kyrie James said: "Alcohol health and social harm problems are preventable.

"Expert evidence and research confirms cheaper drinks are favoured by those who drink hazardously or harmfully, and a minimum unit price would have a disproportionate targeting effect on problematic drinking, reducing alcohol problems and achieving health and other benefits for individuals and our communities as a whole."

She added that the panel felt a minimum unit price would be "an effective mechanism through which alcohol-related harm can be addressed".

Mr Drakeford, who unveiled proposals for a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol in April in a white paper outlining ideas for public health legislation, welcomed the panel's report.

"There is indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters," he said.

"It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has improved substantially so has alcohol-related death and disease.

"A minimum unit price will make a strong contribution to preventing alcohol overuse and misuse and reducing alcohol-associated illnesses. The panel's report supports this view.

"We will now develop our proposals further with a view to introducing the Public Health Bill in early 2015."

Plans for minimum pricing have now been referred to the European Court of Justice.

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