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Minimum alcohol pricing rules kick in today - here's what that means

€7.10 is now the minimum price for a bottle of wine that has an alcohol content of 12%.

Image: Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT’S MINIMUM pricing rules on alcohol take effect from today, which means 1 gram of alcohol has to be sold for at least €0.10.

A Government minister said today that the law was being introduced to ensure “cheap, strong alcohol is not available to children and young people at ‘pocket money’ prices” – it’s also hoped to decrease unhealthy consumption of alcohol among the Irish population.

As of this morning, a 70cl bottle of whiskey or gin can’t be sold for less than €22.09, a 70cl bottle of vodka for less than €20.71, a 750ml bottle of wine for less than €7.40 and a pint of lager for less than €1.93. 

To find out what the minimum price of a drink is under this legislation use this formula: the volume of drink in millilitres x the alcohol % x 0.789 = grams of alcohol.

For a 750ml bottle of wine at 12% strength, that’s 750 x 0.12 x 0.789 = 71.01 grams. Then multiply 71.01 grams by the minimum price of alcohol €0.10, and you get €7.10 as the minimum price for a bottle of wine that’s 12% alcohol. 

Minium pricing Source: Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018

In an analysis of drink prices, The Journal found that discount offers on 12-packs of Heineken and Guinness and Huzzar vodka would see modest increases of a few cents under the new minimum rules – but cheaper brands of booze would see more dramatic increases.

Discount retailers had sold 750ml bottles of wine with 12% alcohol contents for €4.99 (€7.10 under minimum pricing), and 700ml bottles of rum at 40% alcohol for €12.29 (€22.10 under minimum pricing).

Scotland introduced minimum pricing rules of £0.50 per 10 grams of alcohol in May 2018, followed by Wales in 2020, but the same measure will not take effect in Northern Ireland until at least 2023.

This is despite pressure from the Government on the North’s devolved government to introduce the measure at the same time both north and south of the border to stop cross-border trade of cheaper alcohol.  

Speaking in the Dáil in May, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the latest discussions between his Government and Northern Ireland indicated that the Stormont Executive wouldn’t consider introducing minimum pricing rules until 2023, “if at all”.

The Taoiseach indicated that Ireland can’t wait to introduce what the Government is calling a “public health” measure – citing figures that indicate hospitalisations “wholly attributed to alcohol” rose by 94% between 1995 and 2018 from 9,420 to 18,348.

“The view is that the below-cost selling of alcohol is harming children and young people in particular. Some of the figures are quite horrendous,” he said. 

“For example, Ireland had the third highest level in the world of adolescent binge drinking, at 61% for females and 58.8% for males, according to data from the global study on progress in adolescent health and well-being published in The Lancet in March 2019. Teenagers and children binge drinking bring significant issues for us as a society.”

The Taoiseach said that the National Cancer Registry estimates that at current consumption levels, by 2035 male cancer cases attributable to alcohol will increase by 37% and female cancer cases will increase by 110%. 

“Hence, the view of the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, and the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, that we must move on this,” he said.

Speaking today, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “Today, Ireland joins a small number of countries in the world to introduce minimum pricing. This measure is designed to reduce serious illness and death from alcohol consumption and to reduce the pressure on our health services from alcohol related conditions. It worked in Scotland and I look forward to it working here.”

A Newcastle University study published in May 2021 found that alcohol sales in Scotland fell by almost 8% after the minimum pricing policy was introduced.

Minister of State for Public Health Frank Feighan said: “We are taking this action to ensure that cheap strong alcohol is not available to children and young people at ‘pocket money’ prices and to help those who drink to harmful levels to reduce their intake.

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“I am proud that Ireland is among the first countries in the world to introduce this measure and to take real action to help those who need it the most.”

The minimum pricing rules are part of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018. Under the law, the Minister for Health can increase the minimum price three years after the legislation is brought in.

The minimum price can then be adjusted every 18 months.

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