Welsh minimum alcohol price set for March 2020

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Wine bottles in an off-licenceImage source, Getty Images

A law setting a minimum alcohol price in Wales will come into force on 2 March, under Welsh Government plans.

Ministers want retailers and bars to charge a minimum of 50p per unit - meaning a can of cider could cost at least £1 and a bottle of wine £4.69.

Health minister Vaughan Gething confirmed the start date in a statement to assembly members.

The policy, aimed at tackling alcohol-related deaths, was pegged for last summer but has been delayed.

A communications campaign will be launched for retailers and the public ahead of next year's change.

The regulations, putting the timetable and price into force, will need to be approved by the Welsh Assembly in November.

A similar system has been in place in Scotland since May 2018.

Alcohol sales there have fallen to the lowest levels seen since records began in the early 1990s - although a report was not able to assess the impact of pricing on the figures.

Objections by Portugal that the Welsh law could make the country's wines "less competitive" have delayed its implementation.

Ministers were unable to go ahead with the new regulations while they waited for a "standstill period", required under EU rules, to pass.

There have been concerns that higher alcohol prices could push some drinkers towards other, more harmful substances.

Welsh Government-commissioned research on the issue will be published later in October.

There were more than 500 alcohol-related deaths and 55,000 alcohol related hospital admissions in Wales in 2017.

Academics estimated that a 50p minimum price will lead to 66 (8.5%) fewer alcohol-attributable deaths.