In a White Paper published by health minister Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Government has proposed a minimum price of 50p per unit for alcohol, “to reduce the harms associated with alcohol overuse and misuse”.
The move follows Westminster’s decision last summer to ditching plans for minimum pricing in favour of a ban on sales below the combined cost of VAT and duty.
Drakeford said: “There is indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters. It’s no co-incidence that as the affordability of alcohol has increased substantially, so has alcohol-related death and disease.
He added: “A minimum unit price will make a strong contribution to preventing alcohol overuse and misuse and reducing alcohol-associated illnesses.”
Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) believed minimum unit pricing alone “will not be enough to address the issues at hand”.
She said: “The number of people drinking to excess has been falling, but we are still faced with the issue of heavily discounted prices being offered in shops and supermarkets. It is this issue that must addressed, rather than resorting to measures that have the ability to restrict pubs and bars.”
Nicholls added: “We urge the Welsh Government to use their existing powers to tackle these harms, rather than immediately resorting to new legislation which is unlikely to address the issue at hand.”
“A wider framework and cooperation with Westminster is needed to tackle unregulated sales in the off-trade.”
To address public concern that they “normalise” smoking, the Paper also proposes restricting the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places. The proposal comes on the seventh anniversary of the smoking ban in Wales.
Nicholls believed any restriction on their use would potentially deter people from visiting pubs and bars in Wales.
“Falling numbers of visitors will do nothing but hinder licensed hospitality’s ability to promote success and invest in growth,” she explained.
Wyn Jenkins, licensee at Tafarn-y-deri in Swansea, believed the “big-brother” approach to e-cigarette use was unnecessary.
He said: “We have had one or two e-cigarette users, and they usually feel obliged to go outside anyway, so it’s self-regulating.
“I know there’s a belief that it normalises smoking, but I really can’t see that there’s any substance in that theory.”
A consultation period for the White Paper will run until 24 June.