Minimum alcohol pricing law enters into force in Wales

Spirits: The minimum price for a litre of 40.0% gin will now be £20. Source: Maatla Kebs (via Pexels).

By Lowri Pitcher

What is the law?

On Monday, March 2, a new law came into force which obliges retailers and outlets serving alcohol to charge at least 50p per unit of alcohol sold. 

The law states that it will now be illegal for any alcohol retailers including pubs, bars, shops or any outlets requiring an alcohol licence to sell alcohol without adhering to the minimum unit pricing regulations. 

According to the legislation, if a person is found guilty of selling or authorising the sale of alcohol in Wales below the correct minimum price, they can be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 if the payment is made within 29 days or £150 if paid within 15 days. If somebody is found guilty of supplying alcohol in Wales below the correct pricing regulations, they will be liable for a fine of up to £1000.

How much will drinks cost?

Source: Oli King

In practice, the total minimum cost of an alcoholic drink in Wales is calculated through a relatively simple formula of 50p times the strength of the alcohol, times the volume of alcohol in litres. While a single shot (0.025L) of a spirit is one unit, and consequently must now cost at least 50p, a litre of 40.0% proof spirit would cost £20.00. Similarly, a standard can (0.44L) of cider or beer at 5.2% proof will have a minimum price of £1.14 and a bottle of wine (0.75L) of 12.5% proof will cost at least £4.69. 

It has been stated that most wine is unlikely to be affected as this is already mostly sold above the 50p margin. The average pint and servings of beer will remain largely affected, although alcohol served in multipacks and at discount supermarkets may be affected as these retailers often promote alcohol on a benchmark below the new minimum pricing.   

As a result, many pub owners are welcoming the MUP (Minimum Unit Pricing) as it could even out the field between pubs and supermarkets. However, the legislation has not been so warmly welcomed by supermarkets such as Asda, which claims that the changes will cost the company around a million pounds. 

Currently, any revenue from the increase in pricing will remain in the hands of the supermarkets and retailers, but Alcohol Change UK said that: “If it becomes clear that MUP is increasing supermarket alcohol revenues, we will be calling for any additional profits to be channelled via taxation into services to support people with alcohol problems.”

Which drinks will be most affected?

Upon announcing the new law, the Welsh Government stated that “You won’t notice a change in the price of most alcoholic drinks, but high-strength, low-cost products like white cider will be significantly more expensive.” 

Drinks which have been affected include Strongbow, Lambrini, multipacks of Budweiser and two/three-litre bottles of 5% cider. For example, before the introduction of the new law, it was possible to purchase a three-litre bottle of 7.5% proof of Frosty Jack’s cider for £3.59. However, when the minimum pricing formula is applied (0.5 x 7.5 x 3) the new cost of the bottle is £11.25 which is over three times more expensive. 

Tony Cristofaro, owner of Spar Landmark Place, Cardiff, told ConvenienceStore.co.uk: “I don’t envisage any issues as I believe MUP has been adequately advertised in the local press and I am hoping for a small sales increase as now our own-brand spirits will be the same price as Tesco and Sainsbury’s around the corner.

“I have delisted all the large bottles of cider (Frosty Jacks and own brand). I had already delisted the strong cans and bottles many years ago due to theft. I decided to delist the big bottles because I envisage them being stolen more often when they’re over £10 a bottle!”

The impact of alcohol on public health

Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Government’s Health Minister said: “We know when alcohol is cheap and readily available, harmful drinking increases. The minimum price won’t affect moderate drinkers who may be worried about the price of a pint going up. The aim of this legislation is to reduce the harm being done by those most at risk of alcohol abuse.” 

“The minimum price won’t affect moderate drinkers who may be worried about the price of a pint going up. The aim of this legislation is to reduce the harm being done by those most at risk of alcohol abuse.” – Vaughan Gething

According to Public Health Wales, alcohol ranks among the top five risk factors for disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in Wales and an estimated 19% of people in Wales drank more alcohol than the recommended weekly guidelines of consuming no more than 14 units per week for men and women who drink regularly. More so, a survey conducted in seven universities across Wales found that a third of alcohol consumers said that they or somebody else had been injured because of their drinking and between 10 – 15 per cent of students said that they had been in a fight during or after drinking.

According to the Government “Around 10 people die every week in Wales from alcohol-related causes. Alcohol causes harm to societies as well as individuals, with taxpayers picking up the bill. Every year, alcohol leads to nearly 60,000 hospital admissions in Wales and costs NHS Wales an estimated £159 million.” This law is part of the Welsh Government’s strategy to help tackle substance misuse in Wales which receives funding of £53 million a year in order to ensure that people are aware of the dangers and impact of substance misuse and to know where information and support are available if needed.

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