Some price-conscious Donegal consumers are flocking to their local off-licences and supermarkets this evening - in a bid to stock up before a major hike in alcohol prices.
The introduction of a minimum charge for alcohol comes into effect tomorrow, January 4.
Under the new measures a standard bottle of wine cannot be sold for less than €7.40 and a can of beer for less than €1.70. The new law will largely affect alcohol sold in off licences, shops and supermarkets.
Spirits like gin or vodka with 40% alcohol content cannot be sold for less than €20.70 while a 700 ml bottle of whiskey will now have a minimum price of €22.
And in border areas like Donegal, there is concern amongst retailers that the changes will lead to a surge in people opting to cross into Northern Ireland where alcohol is a lot cheaper.
Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), who have strongly welcomed the changes, say that the higher prices will save lives.
IMO President Dr Ina Kelly said the measure is "a really important public health intervention to help in the ongoing battle with alcohol misuse.”
She said for many years the IMO has been advocating health measures to reduce alcohol consumption and binge drinking, particularly among young people.
"Research shows that there is a direct correlation between the price of alcohol, alcohol consumption and alcohol related deaths," Dr Kelly said.
Studies in Scotland and Canada have shown that minimum unit alcohol pricing targets the heaviest drinkers of cheap alcohol, "that are most likely to suffer harm".
"Minimum unit pricing will help to reduce the harmful level of alcohol consumption and related harm," Dr Kelly said. "I have no doubt that minimum unit pricing will save lives," she added.
However, the price hike is likely to prompt some negative reaction from social drinkers who will feel that they are being unfairly penalised.
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