The impact of the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) on alcohol is being felt by third-level students in Ireland.
The new measures introduced by the Government on January 4 have seen the price of alcohol in shops and supermarkets rise significantly in an effort to reduce consumption.
MUP has seen the price of alcohol sold in shops brought to a minimum of 10c per gram of alcohol or €1 per standard drink.
The minimum price of a can of beer or cider has risen to €1.70 and €2.17 respectively while a 12.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) bottle of wine now costs at least €7.40 and a 40% ABV bottle of spirits €22.09.
The new legislation brought in under the Public Health Alcohol Act 2018 has brought the minimum price of a slab of 24 cans of beer, which sold for as little as €25 and often went on sale for less in supermarkets, to over €40.
NUI Galway Students’ Union President Róisín Nic Lochlainn was critical of the regressive nature of the measures as a flat tax, saying it will disproportionately impact the less well-off.
“Students across the island already experience financial instability with emergency hardship funds seeing thousands of applications every year, and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“It’s also extremely unfair on the family who may like to occasionally drink on a Friday after a long week of work because they simply will not be able to afford it anymore.”
Ms Nic Lochlainn said the new price floors would see some go without essential items “such as an antigen test” in favour of purchasing alcohol and those struggling with alcohol addiction “will still choose to spend their money on it.”
She suggested that MUP measures would be more understandable if the additional money generated were to be spent on “campaigns to cut binge drinking habits, rehabilitation services or other non-alcoholic related activities.”
The introduction of MUP has however been welcomed by Alcohol Action Ireland with the independent organisation hailing the move as “a historical development in public health alcohol policy.”
Speaking on the day the new legislation was introduced the chair of Alcohol Action Ireland Professor Frank Murray said MUP would help reduce the harm potentially caused by alcohol consumption.
“Today’s introduction is a really positive move by government to address persistent alcohol related harms.
“With almost two-thirds of all alcohol use emanating from off-trade retail sales, the availability of such volumes of cheap drink in every community in Ireland has to tackled, if we hope to address the chronic level of alcohol related harm that demands so much of our health services.
“I have no doubt that in addressing the exceptional affordability of this alcohol, MUP will have proved to have saved many lives,” he concluded.
Numbers cited by drinkaware.ie from a study on the impact of MUP in Scotland show a reduction in alcohol consumption of 9.5 grams per adult per household.
The study also found that lower income households showed the biggest reduction in alcohol spending while weekly spending on alcohol increased by just 0.61p per household from the period 2015-2018.