The Irish Times

The price of alcohol

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Sir, – Is it not a remarkable coincidenc­e that the minimum pricing proposal surfaces just as the Irish licensed trade, notoriousl­y resistant to competitio­n, politicall­y well-connected and funded, finds itself aggressive­ly undercut by a UK operator? – Yours, etc, AJ ROUS, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Frank Smith’s letter (December 11th) reveals a heart-warming naivety in relation to the mindset of young Irish drinkers. He suggests that, were we to have cheaper alcohol, they would not tank up on supermarke­t booze before heading to the pubs. As justificat­ion he cites the drinking habits of the young adults on Mainland Europe. He is quite right but the cultures are different. I have observed with admiration the young and not so young in cafes in France sip a glass of beer or wine, maybe two. Then they have an ice cream. They do not set out to get “smashed” so that they can enjoy almost total amnesia the next morning. Unfortunat­ely, based on my eavesdropp­ing on the Dart, that is what a large number of Irish youth from all social background­s see as a good night out. By the way, in university campus pubs alcohol is relatively cheap. This does not seem to have produced French or Italian patterns of drinking. – Yours, etc, CONSTANCE MORRIS, Shankill, Dublin 18.

Sir, – The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill if enacted and enforced has the potential to change radically our relationsh­ip with alcohol and most importantl­y to save lives and to reduce the hurt and grief of so many families.

It will introduce initiative­s, such as establishi­ng a minimum unit price for alcohol, that are based on robust evidence that prove they can reduce alcohol consumptio­n, particular­ly amongst very young people and harmful drinkers. It is an effective way to target cheap, high-strength alcohol that is consumed in huge volumes by these drinkers.

The minimum unit price proposed in this Bill will hardly be noticed by those who consume alcohol in a low risk way – namely 11 units of alcohol a week for women and 17 for men. A minimum unit price of around ¤1 will add just 30 cent to the cost of alcohol purchased in supermarke­ts and other outlets for those who consume these amounts, or ¤1.20 a month.

Evidence from provinces in Canada where minimum unit pricing operates shows that much like the smoking ban, within a year, fewer people will die as a result of alcohol use in Ireland, the number of hospital admissions will fall, as will crime rates. Over 20 years minimum unit pricing can save 197 lives and mean almost 6,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions.

We have an opportunit­y to take an important step to stop the three deaths per day from alcohol here, and I hope the public will ask TDs who canvass their votes to adopt the Bill in the next government.

Surely it’s time to stop this carnage and heartache. – Yours, etc, Prof FRANK MURRAY, President, Royal College of Physicians, South Frederick Street, Dublin 2.

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