The healthcare data came to light when the Director of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco at Public Health in England Rosanna O’Connor told the Committee that, “Around 4.4% of the population are drinking just under a third of the alcohol consumed in this country. That’s around two million drinking just over 30% of the alcohol.”
The parliamentary joint Committee was looking at proposals to introduce a Minimum Unit Price of 50 Pence and Rosanna O’Connor told the Committee that the majority of this group were drinking very cheap, high-strength alcohol.
In evidence, she cited a three-litre bottle of cider containing 22.5 units of alcohol which could be bought in England for just £3.60.
With the introduction of MUP this would rise to £11.
“The result would be a significant impact on a small group of people,” she stated, “That’s why it’s such a targeted policy for such great health gains.”
University of Southampton Professor Nick Sheron also spoke at the Committee hearing. He runs the liver unit at Southampton General Hospital and he explained that patients of his with alcohol-related liver cirrhosis consumed an average of 120 units a week.
“That’s the median, the mean is higher – it’s 150,” he said.
A typical hard cider drinker would consume about 16 litres a week, paying around £20 for it, he explained. With MUP, this would rise to nearly £70.
He added that those consuming 14 units per week – the recommended weekly limit – would pay an extra £1.26 per week in the case of wine or spirits drinkers while a beer drinker would pay an extra £2 and a cider drinker £3 more.
The financial impact of MUP to a moderate drinker would be 61 Pence a month or £7 per year.
Advocates of MUP point out that this targets only a small group of problem drinkers and will not impact the price of alcohol in pubs and clubs.