Monday, 30 January 2012

Minimum alcohol pricing on Merseyside

"MERSEYSIDE is set to lead the way by introducing a minimum alcohol price tag.
The proposed 50p per unit cost is intended to stop supermarkets selling cheap booze as loss-leaders fuelling binge drinking amongst local youngsters.
The move will be included in a report published next month by the Liverpool City Region Child Poverty and Life Chances Commission which represents the five councils and associated bodies.
Former welfare minister and poverty tsar Frank Field told the ECHO today: “Increasingly in many of our constituencies alcohol is a bigger social problem than drugs – particularly amongst young people.”
The Birkenhead MP added: “It is outrageous that big supermarket chains exploit the situation, selling alcohol below cost to draw in customers and increase their profits.”
The leaked report pointed out across Merseyside alcohol-related hospital admissions of under-18s is 149 per 100,000 of population – well over double the 64.5 national average.
Research by academics suggests a 50p minimum price would reduce such admissions by 4,355 in the first year in the Merseyside and Cheshire health area. And it would cut regional NHS costs by £2.1m each year.
The report said: “Increases in price would not impact equally across all drinkers because those who drink hazardously and harmfully tend to choose cheaper drinks.
“A 50p minimum price would lead to consumption of low-risk drinkers falling by only 3.5%. Therefore minimum pricing would affect harmful drinkers far more than those who drink in moderation.”
Under the proposal, which will require new local bylaws, a two-litre bottle of supermarket brand cider currently sold for £1.85 would cost £5.30.
The current supermarket cost of cheap drink can be as low as 17p a unit.
Last year the Home Office confirmed retailers will be banned from selling alcohol below the rate of duty plus VAT.
But the Merseyside report pointed out such curbs will still allow supermarket chains to set unit prices as low as 21p for beer and 28p for spirits which works out at 38p for a can of lager and £10.71 for a litre of vodka."

I presume that Tesco et al are pretty robust in not selling alcohol to under 18s so blaming the low price of booze in supermarkets for a rise in alcohol-related hospital admissions in this age group seems grossly wrong. This is where the Law of Unintended Consequences which Tandleman is fond of quoting kicks in. Instead of learning how to drink responsibly in a pub atmosphere under pain of sufferance by the Licensee and pub regulars, this generation of teenagers get older youths to buy their alcohol or at the mercy of criminals offering supplies that have avoided duty and tax. Drinking in their homes or in parks, there is no regulation of the binge drinking that ensues.

The minimum pricing will not solve the problem. Merseyside has many 'entrepreneurs' who can undercut the higher price levels that the supermarkets will be forced to commit to. With no social conscience the under age drinkers will continue to be exploited with a few older and poorer drinkers tempted as well.

Will any increased tax revenue from the off-trade be used to help the heavily regulated on-trade? Not likely! Note that there is no apology for the consumption of low-risk drinkers reducing by only 3.5%. Why should this blameless group be penalised? 

1 comment:

  1. Such a scheme has been mooted for Greater Manchester too, but for councils to do it unilaterally is completely illegal anyway.