MINIMUM unit pricing for alcohol should be introduced in Wales to help protect those most vulnerable to the effects of "hazardous and harmful" drinking, experts have recommended.

A review by the Welsh Government's Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse (APoSM) has concluded that such a move will begin to tackle alcohol-related harm among "the most vulnerable groups in our communities."

Its report on the issue says alcohol misuse has accounted for more than 5,000 deaths in England and Wales in each of the last 10 years, and Wales - which had 504 alcohol-related deaths in 2012 alone - has a higher rate of such deaths than England.

On the basis of the evidence it has reviewed, APoSM - an independent expert body that advises the health minister on measures to prevent or reduce substance misuse - have unanimously recommended that the Welsh Government introduce minimum unit pricing.

“Alcohol health and social harm problems are preventable," said APoSM chairman Kyri Ll James.

"Expert evidence and research confirms cheaper drinks are favoured by those who drink hazardously or harmfully, and a minimum unit price would have a disproportionate targeting effect on problematic drinking, reducing alcohol problems and achieving health and other benefits for individuals and our communities as a whole.

“APoSM’s view is that a minimum unit price is an effective mechanism through which alcohol-related harm can be addressed.”

Four months ago, the Welsh Government launched a consultation into a White Paper proposing a minimum unit price for alcohol as part of a range of public health initiatives. The proposed minimum unit price is 50p.

"There is indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters. It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has improved substantially so has alcohol-related death and disease," said health minister Mark Drakeford.

“A minimum unit price will make a strong contribution to preventing alcohol overuse and misuse and reducing alcohol-associated illnesses. The panel’s report supports this view.

“We will now develop our proposals further with a view to introducing the Public Health Bill in early 2015.