Potential impact of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Ireland: evidence from the National Alcohol Diary Survey

Aim One of the main provisions of the Irish Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in Ireland, set at €1.00/standard drink. We sought to identify who will be most affected by the introduction of a MUP, examining the relationship between harmful alcohol consumption, personal income, place of purchase and price paid for alcohol.

MethodA nationally representative survey of 3187 respondents aged 18–75 years, completing a diary of their previous week's alcohol consumption. The primary outcome was purchasing alcohol at <€1.00/standard drink; secondary outcome was purchasing alcohol at <€1.00/standard drink off-sales. Primary exposures were harmful alcohol consumption (AUDIT-C > 5), low personal annual income (

Results One in seven respondents (14%) spent <€1.00/standard drink, with a median spend of 0.78/standard drink. High-risk drinkers (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.09–2.23), men (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.43–2.66), people on low income (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.20–2.23) and those purchasing alcohol off-sales (OR 21.9, 95% CI 12.5–38.1) were most likely to report purchasing alcohol at <€1.00/standard drink. Forty-four per cent of alcohol consumed was purchased off-sales. Of those purchasing off-sales, 30% bought cheap alcohol. High-risk drinkers, men and those on low income were most likely to report paying < €1.00/standard drink off-sales.

Conclusion Heavy drinkers, men and those on low income seek out the cheapest alcohol. The introduction of a MUP in Ireland is likely to target those suffering the greatest harm, and reduce alcohol-attributable mortality in Ireland. Further prospective studies are needed to monitor consumption trends and associated harms following the introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol.