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HSC: minimum unit pricing for alcohol could see ban on multi-buys and special offers

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BANNING alcohol multi-buys and special offers in shops is one strategy that could be considered to reduce heavy consumption ahead of bringing in minimum unit pricing for alcohol, said Health & Social Care.

Banning alcohol multi-buys and special offers in shops is one strategy that could be considered to reduce heavy consumption ahead of bringing in minimum unit pricing for alcohol, said Health & Social Care (26122449)

But while suggesting that this idea could be looked at locally, the committee stressed that such moves should be part of an overall strategy: ‘Such a decision should be made in a structured way to ensure the right policies are being adopted in the right way, for the right reasons,’ it said.

HSC’s comments follow those from Home Affairs president Mary Lowe in the States last week that the committee is set to consider MUP and reassess licensing hours in an effort to clamp down on anti-social behaviour in Town on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Drug and Alcohol Strategy Action Plan, which is due to run until next year, including the goal of reducing the availability of heavily discounted alcohol and ‘irresponsible promotions’ through increases in duty on alcohol products, said HSC. A rise of 5% per year has been recommended in each budget since 2014, but HSC said that this can be something of a blunt instrument although it can go some way to discourage excessive drinking and towards changing individual choices.

‘A MUP policy is specifically targeted at addressing the cheapest alcohol. It was implemented in Scotland at 50 pence per unit in May 2018 and is due to come into force in Wales in March 2020,’ said HSC.

However, a report on the implementation of the idea in Scotland showed that due to the higher prices typically found in pubs, clubs and restaurants, these business had been largely unaffected by the introduction of the scheme, which mainly affected supermarkets and off-licences.

The figures showed an up to 7.6% reduction in alcohol purchases, which was more than double the estimates, suggesting that the health benefits anticipated would be even greater.

Research on the effect in Guernsey suggested that almost half of alcohol products would be affected by a MUP of 50p per unit and increase the cost of the cheapest products, such as cheap cider, by about 20%.

Increasing the MUP to 70p would affect a wider range of products.

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But the initiative would be one method of many that could be used: ‘It is clear that no individual step can, in isolation, address alcohol misuse and to be successful a full suite of initiatives are needed,’ said HSC.

‘Work is currently ongoing to explore the unification of the Bailiwick Drug and Alcohol Strategy and the Tobacco Control Strategy into a single Substance Misuse Strategy, recognising the benefits of a single, coordinated approach. A joint strategic needs assessment is currently ongoing to inform the Strategy’s development.’

HSC anticipated bringing a report to the States early next year.

‘Through the Partnership of Purpose, the States of Guernsey unanimously approved a “health in all policies” approach and it is vital that committees work together to create an environment which best supports health and wellbeing,’ said HSC president Heidi Soulsby.

‘It is premature at this stage to determine whether this includes the introduction of a MUP but careful consideration will be paid to this, and other options, as part of the development of a Substance Misuse Strategy.’

Mark Ogier

By Mark Ogier
News reporter

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