Both Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and Social Development Minister Alex Attwood have said in recent months that minimum pricing is needed to curb dangerous drinking habits that cost society up to £900 million a year.
Dr Philip McGarry, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland, said: “We have been advocating minimum pricing for alcohol for some time, and now Scotland has set a lead we believe the Northern Ireland Executive must follow. The Royal College of Psychiatrists does not oppose responsible drinking, but like others in the medical profession we see the dreadful consequences of harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption.”
Dr McGarry continued: “International evidence demonstrates that minimum pricing for alcohol works, and the World Health Organisation says that increasing the price of alcohol is one of the most effective ways of curbing harmful drinking. Supermarkets sell beer for less than the price of bottled water, and we see pubs and clubs promoting drinks, often to young people and in particular young women, at heavily discounted prices. We need to make alcohol less appealing, particularly to young people. The evidence is that banning advertising, limiting the number of retailers and introducing minimum pricing works.”
The relationship between alcohol misuse and mental health problems is complex, with alcohol both contributing to mental health problems and being used by some people with mental illness to ‘self medicate’.
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