A LOCALLY-based doctor has weighed in over the minimum alcohol cost debate, citing a minimum cost of 50p per unit of alcohol as being ideal.
Dr Scott Payne, who works across Fermanagh as well as further afield, is a consultant in addiction psychiatry.
Speaking to the Fermanagh Herald this week, the doctor spoke of research that has led to many calling for a minimum cost for alcohol.
“We’ve known for a long time that there is a very strong correlation between the cost of alcohol and both alcohol related harm and alcohol dependence,” he said.
“There has been recent work in Canada to increase the price of alcohol in that region and that has seen a reduction in alcohol related harm.
“There was work done a few years ago from Sheffield University, which again worked out the cost of alcohol and how much harm would be reduced. And they said that if they could put it at 50p a unit that that was the optimum level to minimise harm.”
Dr Payne cited the two main groups that cheap alcohol impacts is the young drinker, and the ‘dependent’ drinker. In Fermanagh, a can of lager is available for as little as 25p per can (a pack of four 440ml cans, with 2% alcohol content). And the 50p figure was something that the consultant agreed with.
“I think 50p is shown to be the optimum level. From a health perspective, that would be the best level to pitch it at.”
Research is currently underway in association with the Northern Ireland Assembly to come to an agreement over the minimum pricing.
A Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) spokesman said:
“The Department has been working closely with the Department for Social Development who led a joint consultation on the principle of introducing minimum unit pricing in Northern Ireland.
“Following the consultation, we are commissioning research to model the likely impact of this in Northern Ireland, which will help inform our future decisions in this area. Given the potential impact on cross-border trade, this research is, being taken forward on a North/South Basis.
“We anticipate this research will be completed early in 2014. The department will continue to watch developments in Scotland and England very closely.”