/ Food & Drink, Health

Will a minimum 40p per alcohol unit cure binge drinking?

It’s Friday night, I’m preparing for a big night out. I pop to the shops, top up my alcohol cabinet and get ready to hit the town. Will the 40p unit price proposal really stop this kind of behaviour and sober up Britain?

You’ll likely to have seen headlines that the government is set to charge a minimum alcohol unit price of 40p. The move is hoped to reduce binge drinking and anti-social behaviour.

The government claims the 40p a unit minimum price could result in 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 9,000 fewer alcohol related deaths over the next decade. In fact, reports in the Guardian say this move could add £135 to the annual bill of a heavy drinker.

Do you think higher prices will help any of the UK’s drink-related social problems, or will it just be another price rise for consumers to cope with this year?

Preloading alcoholic drinks

We’ve hosted similar alcohol discussions on Which? Conversation in the past. Last year the government proposed minimum alcohol prices suggesting a 400ml can of lager couldn’t be sold for less that 38p and a bottle of wine for no less than £2.03.

Commenter M Richards wasn’t sure whether last year’s minimum alcohol prices would solve the issue and proposed more extreme measures:

‘People intent on getting drunk will in the main not be deterred by the modest price changes. I would introduce hospital charges for people who need treatment and are drunk, and a high fine for anyone drunk committing a violent offence.’

And Ken Milne thinks the issue has deeper roots:

‘Over reaction to binge drinking is causing other problems when perhaps we should find out why there is a need to binge drink in the first place.’

Some sobering thoughts

And although the government believes responsible drinkers will be unaffected by the changes, commenter Chris Gloucestershire is worried that they will:

‘I strongly disagree with this approach to combat binge drinking. By increasing the price of booze the government is penalising everyone for the actions of a minority. That simply isn’t fair, worse still it treats everyone with equal contempt.

‘Binge drinking is a British social problem. On the continent booze is much cheaper and they don’t seem to have this problem to any significant degree.’

At today’s suggested 40p a unit, a weak can of lager (3.6% alcohol) would cost at least 80p and a bottle of wine (12.5% alcohol) would be £3.75.

Do you think such alcohol price increases would stop binge drinkers from hitting the bottle?

And if you’re wondering, my Friday is more likely to involve a small glass of sauvignon blanc, in my PJs, tucked up in front of the TV. There’ll be no ‘drunken mayhem’ in my flat tonight (fingers crossed).

Tony Hereford says:
23 March 2012

No! the worst offenders will find the money from somewhere, this will only punish sensible drinkers!


Supermarkets need to clean up their act or they should lose their licence to sell alcohol.


If anywone has a drnk problem/wants to get sloshed of an evening, they will find the money from somewhere this is just another hike on taxes. BUT for those who drink so much they have to be taken to A&E or a booze bus then they should pay for their treatment as it is totally self inflacted.


Is this is going to hit the English cider producers hard, as don’t they get a reduced rate of tax at present compared to other drinks?

I’d agree with both above, sensible drinkers will be punished, and there really needs to be a clampdown on sales to underage kids. A small Tesco near where I used to live lost its licence for 3 months for this, and they absolutely howled about how unfair it was!

Joe Taylor (@nwcan) says:
23 March 2012

sensible drinkers? Is it really sensible to drink dilute poison and pay through the nose for the privilege? Are there any sensible smokers?


This is not a tax going to the exchequer, it is retained by the shop and will bolster their profit on which tax should be paid.

Sensible drinkers will be the main losers, as always! Binge drinkers will find the money. It will make no difference to the appalling levels of drunkeness on our streets. We should revert to fewer opening hours for pubs and clubs, stiff penalties for drunken behaviour including community service at the times when these drunks would normally be drinking, & require alcohol resellers to support alcohol education for young people.Big fines if sell alcohol to kids with the money going to education.


Whilst I agree it will be the sensible drinkers who suffer unneccessarily and a minimum 40p per unit will not make any difference to the binge drinker you’re wrong about the tax.
VAT remember goes up with each increase in price so the treasury will be taking a “skim”.

The real worry is that this lame and very unfair approach to a real problem is the best our Government can come up with. No wonder the nation is in the state it’s in if this is typical.


I am strongly against any increase in duty on alcohol which I see as a cynical money making exercise by the government. If the government are genuine about tackling the issue perhaps they could explain how they would use the extra taxes to tackle the problem.
In my view, binge drinking will remain a problem until the section of the population that currently drink to excess on a night out start to view it as socially unacceptable themselves.


Why is it that everyone apart from our lawmakers knows how to reduce binge drinking?
Solution: We are not French, so bring back the licensing Hours.
Only allow alcohol sales from, Pubs; Dedicated Off Licences; night clubs & similar venues.
Ban alcohol sales from: supermarkets ; convenience stores ; sporting events.

Historically we are a nation of binge drinkers,.
Described by the Normans in 1066 as, “shaven headed, tattooed with many piercings and would drink until they are stupefied and ill”
Etched by Hogarth in the candid Gin Lane study [1775] at that time “a third of London’s population was to be found lying drunk in the streets”
So nearly a thousand years of binge drinking, only tamed by the introduction of licensing regulations, designed to keep us sober enough to be able to produce armaments and fight WW1. So we knew then how to sober up Britain, but our lawmakers unable to learn from history unchained the beast. Pumping mega profits into cronies companies & revenue [fines] into the courts coffers.