MUP ‘not silver bullet’ says Welsh Assembly

With the Welsh Assembly preparing to debate and vote on the implementation of minimum unit pricing next week, assembly members have warned that it is not a “silver bullet” with which to tackle alcohol harm.

Following on from Scotland’s recent implementation of the measure, Wales is very likely to follow suit but the health committee backing it has said it needs to be part of a much wider “package of measures” if alcohol-related harm is tobe reduced and there were warnings it may force heavy drinkers to far worse substances.

The Welsh Government has said MUP is aimed at hazardous and harmful drinkers and that it would not be implemented in isolation.

As reported by the BBC, Dai Lloyd, the chairman of the health committee, said: “The committee welcomes the principle outlined in the bill and believes minimum unit pricing will go some way to improving the health of a significant cohort of the Welsh population.

“We have some concerns about unintended consequences, including the possibility of driving heavy drinkers towards other behaviours which negatively affect their health, including diverting money away from food in order to purchase alcohol or substituting alcohol for unregulated, illegal substances.”

A spokeswoman for the Welsh government responded that it was considered the rate of heavy drinkers being driven to take more harmful substances was low.

She continued: “An illegal or untested substance is clearly qualitatively different to the legal consumption of alcohol and there is little evidence of the extent of such behaviour.

“However, we understand there are concerns and this is something we are exploring further with Welsh Government’s Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse, who have agreed to look into this issue.”

Welsh Assembly Members are due to discuss bringing MUP into law next week although it is thought it will not be implemented immediately with Wales waiting to see how it works in Scotland first, where it will come into effect from 1 May this year.

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