Assessing the early influence of COVID-19 in an analysis of the immediate implementation of Minimum Pricing for Alcohol on drinkers in Wales

Katy Holloway, Marian Buhociu*, Shannon Murray, Wulf Livingston, Andy Perkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background: The Welsh Government has commissioned a number of projects to consider the influence their implementation of Minimum Pricing for Alcohol (MPA) legislation in March 2020 had on the alcohol consumption and related behaviours of drinkers. Given the MPA's overlap with the COVID-19 pandemic and its related lockdown measures and restrictions, this rapidly became a story about the early impact of COVID-19 as it did MPA. This paper captures the core thematic messages from this specific strand of work, and in doing so reflects on (1) how early experiences of COVID-19 and the first lockdown influenced consumption and purchasing of alcohol behaviours and, in turn, (2) how relevant the introduction of MPA was for any of these.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted by telephone with 32 drinkers 9 months after the implementation of the legislation in March 2020. The sample was recruited from three sources: the National Survey for Wales; a third sector organisation offering housing support to the homeless; and through an online survey on MPA.

Results: COVID-19 had more relevance than MPA to drinkers. Furthermore, when MPA did have an influence on their behaviour, it was felt most keenly by the harmful drinkers in the study. These drinkers described spending more on alcohol, switching to other potentially more harmful substances, such as crack cocaine and synthetic cannabinoids, and more involvement in acquisitive crime and begging after the price increase. While our results might be an early indication of the influence of MPA on harmful drinkers, the small sample of this group in our study limits the generalisability of the findings.

Conclusion: To date, the implementation of MPA has had little influence on the drinking patterns or lives of the drinkers in our sample. It is important that future research examines the longer-term influences of MPA before any conclusions on its effectiveness can be drawn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-74
Number of pages18
JournalNordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Volume41
Issue number1
Early online date3 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • alcohol
  • Minimum Pricing for Alcohol
  • minimum unit pricing
  • MUP
  • Wales

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