The two bodies have examined the relationship between high-risk drinking, personal income, place of purchase and price paid for alcohol and represents the first Irish study to investigate the potential impact of Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol at a population level.
Undertaken using a national sample of 3,187 Irish adults aged 18-75 years who reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview in 2013, the study found one in seven respondents (14%) spend under €1 on a standard drink, with a median spend of 79 Cent and that 69% of this cheap alcohol was purchased in supermarkets.
Some 44% of alcohol consumed is purchased through the off-trade and of those purchasing off-sales, 30% bought cheap alcohol with the study reporting that “high-risk drinkers, men and those on low income were most likely to report paying under €1 for a standard drink in an off-sales”.
But the research also found that the cheapest alcohol products were favoured by the heaviest drinkers irrespective of income levels.
It found too that almost two-thirds of respondents reported high-risk drinking with men being more likely to report high-risk drinking relative to women.
The report concludes that introduction of MUP in Ireland is likely to target those suffering the greatest harm and reduce alcohol-attributable mortality in Ireland, but it adds that further prospective studies are needed to monitor consumption trends and associated harms following the introduction of MUP.
“Some opponents of Minimum Unit Pricing are concerned that consumers using alcohol in a low risk manner will be punished with higher prices, commented the RCSI’s lead researcher Dr Gráinne Cousins, “Our findings do not support these concerns, as unlike tax or excise measures, the introduction of a MUP would affect less than 14% of the population. More importantly, from a population health perspective, we’ve shown that a MUP of €1 per standard drink will primarily target high-risk drinkers.
“We know that people on lower incomes in Ireland suffer a disproportionate burden of alcohol-related harm. Our findings indicate that the health benefits of introducing a MUP in Ireland will also be greatest among those on lower incomes in terms of reductions in alcohol consumption and harm.
“Our study also suggests that men will experience greater health benefits from the introduction of a MUP, which again supports this policy as a targeted strategy, as men are disproportionately affected by alcohol-attributable harms.”