Minimum alcohol price law 'could save £900m'

Optics behind a bar Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption A minimum price for alcohol could be set by law in Wales in 2015

Setting a minimum alcohol price of 50p per unit could save Wales nearly £900m over 20 years by cutting crime and illness, a report has claimed.

It could prevent more than 50 alcohol-related deaths a year, with poorer people seeing most health improvements.

Researchers from Sheffield University say a 50p unit price could reduce total alcohol consumption in Wales by 4%.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford welcomed the report as the Welsh government plans a new law on the issue for 2015.

Effects of a minimum price for alcohol in Wales

  • Up to 53 fewer deaths a year
  • 1,400 fewer hospital admissions a year
  • Crime falling by 3,700 offences a year
  • Workplace absence cut by 10,000 days a year
  • A small impact on moderate drinkers but a bigger impact on heavy drinkers
  • Bigger health gains for poorer people
  • Total savings to the economy of £882m over 20 years

Source: Sheffield University report for the Welsh government

'No coincidence'

Mr Drakeford had unveiled the proposals for a minimum 50p unit price for alcohol in a public health white paper in April.

He said the research published on Monday showed it would have "significant benefits" on the nation's health, and built on the advice of the Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse published in July.

"It would mean fewer alcohol-related deaths and ease the burden of alcohol-related harm on the Welsh NHS," he said.

"It is no coincidence that as alcohol has become relatively cheaper, alcohol-related deaths and disease have increased.

"We will consider these findings and continue to develop our proposals with a view to introducing legislation."

It could become law as part of a Public Health Bill for Wales planned for early 2015.

Analysis by Owain Clarke, BBC Wales health correspondent

Under the proposed law, shops in Wales would not be allowed to sell a can of beer for less than £1, a bottle of wine for less than £5, or a bottle of spirits for less than £15.

That could lead to a 7% reduction in consumption amongst heavy drinkers - those most likely to buy cheap alcohol - according to the researchers.

A typical drinker would end up paying around £10 a year more - but the impact could be much bigger on heavier drinkers living in poverty.

Overall it could lead to 1,400 fewer hospital admissions each year.

Coupled with a reduction in crime and sickness absence, the study claims that could reduce the economic impact of alcohol misuse by almost £900m over 20 years.

However a similar plan in Scotland has been challenged in the courts by the drinks industry.

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