Shops and pubs will soon be banned from selling alcohol under a minimum amount. Some believe this will help cut binge drinking and crime – others say it doesn’t go far enough. What do you make of the prices?
Binge drinking on the rise, alcohol-related illnesses rocketing, crime continuing… booze is the root of all evil, right?
Well, that’s a whole debate in itself, and answers would depend on your own attitude to, and experiences with, alcohol. But will higher prices help any of these drink-related social problems, or will it just be another price rise for consumers to cope with this year?
The new minimum prices for alcohol
If you missed the news yesterday, I’ll quickly sum it up for you. Ministers have announced a minimum price for alcohol in England and Wales, which works out at 38p for a can of weak lager and £10.71 for a litre of vodka. The image below gives a good breakdown of the costs across different types of drink.
Minister for crime prevention, James Brokenshire, said: ‘We know that pricing controls can help reduce alcohol-related violent crime and this is a crucial step in tackling the availability of cheap alcohol.’
But others aren’t so supportive of the changes. ‘It’s a step in the right direction, but I have to say its an extremely small step,’ Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘It’ll have no impact whatsoever on the vast majority of cheap drinks sold, for example, in supermarkets.”
A cursory check on both Tesco and Asda’s online stores this morning shows that he’s got a point. Anyone can look at the minimum wine and lager prices above and see they’re low – but what about vodka? This morning, Tesco was selling its Value Vodka for £8.47 (the equivalent of £12.10 a litre) and Asda’s cheapest – Glen’s Vodka – was £11.97 for a litre bottle. Judging by those prices, the new minimum rate of £10.71 a litre looks like an absolute bargain.
But of course, other factors come into play. Deals like buy-one-get-one-half-price or 20% off could push these cheap tipples below the minimum amount, forcing supermarkets to think seriously about price promotions.
What’s the right price?
But will these limits really affect the retail prices of the alcohol we buy? Not according to Jonathan Mail of Camra, the drinkers’ group:
‘We think the ban will have negligible impact as supermarkets sell only a tiny minority of beer below duty plus VAT,’ he said. ‘The decision means pubs will continue to close as they are undercut by supermarkets selling cans of beer at pocket-money prices.’
So, if these prices aren’t high enough, what would be the right amount? Last year researchers at Sheffield University estimated that raising the price to at least 50p per unit would mean that after a decade there’d be almost 3,000 fewer deaths each year and 41,000 fewer cases of chronic illness.
This approach has been endorsed by health watchdog Nice, and would put the minimum price of a pint of beer closer to £1-£1.50.
Who do you think is right? Should prices be pushed up further or should we continue to be sold booze at rock-bottom prices?