The Cabinet has signed off on proposals to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, with the measure to take effect from January 1, 2022.
The plan by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will see a minimum “floor” price of 10 cents per gram of alcohol.
It is designed to target cheap drinks with high alcohol content, and will not apply to alcohol sold in pubs and licensed premises, but those sold in supermarkets and off-licenses.
Junior Health Minister and Fine Gael TD Frankie Feighan said the move would ensure that ensure that “cheap strong alcohol is not available to our most vulnerable people, children and young people at ‘pocket money’ prices”.
He added: “We know from our modelling and from the evidence from Scotland that MUP (minimum unit pricing) impacts the most on high risk harmful drinkers.
“So if we can lower the levels of cheap strong alcohol purchased, we can reduce the burden of disease.
“After the introduction of MUP in Scotland alcohol consumption decreased by 7.6%, Scotland’s alcohol sales fell to their lowest levels since records began and consumption levels were at 9.9 litres per capita which is lowest levels since 1994.
“The British Medical Journal reported in 2019 that MUP was successful at targeting the heaviest drinkers, as the reduction of purchased alcohol occurred only in the households that bought the most alcohol.
“This is what MUP seeks to achieve in Ireland.”
The move means a standard bottle of wine will cost at least 7.75 euro, while a bottle of spirits will cost a minimum of 20 euro.
The news has been welcomed by the president of the Irish Medical Organisation, Dr Ina Kelly, who described it as “a key public health intervention which will help in the ongoing battle against alcohol misuse”.
“Irish people continue to consume on average 11 litres of alcohol per year, one of the highest rates in Europe, while HBSC figures show that two in five young people aged between 15 and 17 years old report having been drunk”, the IMO said in a statement.
“Decades of research show that there is a direct correlation between the price of alcohol, alcohol consumption and alcohol related deaths.
“Minimum unit pricing is one of the key measures contained in the Act that will help to reduce the high level of consumption and alcohol related harm in Ireland.”
Cork TD and Sinn Fein’s spokesman on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing, Thomas Gould said that the minimum alcohol pricing would "discourage regular binge drinking which has been shown to act as a gateway to problem drinking and alcohol dependency."
He added: "Minimum Unit Pricing is one of a suite of measures needed to protect vulnerable people and those under the age of 18.”