The Welsh Government will introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol of 50p from 2 March 2020, with regulations today being approved by the National Assembly for Wales.

First published:
12 November 2019
Last updated:

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The Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Act 2018 will mean that it will be an offence for alcohol to be supplied below that price in Wales.

In Wales there are 60,000 admissions to hospital every year, because of alcohol. Alcohol costs the NHS £159 million annually. In 2018, there were 535 alcohol-related deaths in Wales.

The new law supports the Welsh Government’s comprehensive work to tackle harmful and hazardous drinking by tackling the availability and affordability of cheap, strong alcohol, which is part of wider efforts to improve and protect the health of the population of Wales.

Research estimates that introducing a 50p minimum unit price (MUP) would:

  • result in 66 fewer deaths and 1,281 fewer hospital admissions in Wales per year 
  • would save the Welsh NHS more than £90 million over 20 years, in direct healthcare costs
  • would reduce workplace absence, which is estimated to fall by up to 9,800 days per year
  • over a 20 year period, the introduction of a MUP could contribute £783 million to the Welsh economy in terms of the reduction in alcohol-related illness, crime and workplace absence.  

A recent report from a consortium of researchers including Figure 8 Consultancy Services Ltd, the University of South Wales and Glyndwr University has shown the introduction of a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol in Wales is unlikely to see drinkers switching to other substances or drugs. This is something which will be monitored closely once the legislation is implemented. 

The Welsh Government is working with service providers and healthcare professionals to ensure information about the policy is available, and the appropriate services are in place to support people. A national communications campaign will also launch ahead of the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol to make the public, retailers and those effected by the change aware.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

“There is a very real and clear link between levels of excessive drinking and the availability of cheap alcohol. We believe the introduction of a minimum unit price will help reduce alcohol related harm and support people to drink responsibly. Scotland has seen a decline in the amount of alcohol that is consumed since the introduction of MUP and I hope that we will see similar results in Wales.”

Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton said:

“We want to reduce alcohol related harm and deaths in Wales. Nearly 1 in 5 adults are drinking above the safe guideline of 14 units per week. Binge drinking a large quantity of cheap alcohol is particularly damaging on people’s health and has a huge impact on NHS resources. The introduction of an MUP aims to support the reduction of excess drinking and could help save many lives.”