23 Mar 2012

Alcohol minimum price plan set out

A minimum price per unit of alcohol is to be introduced in England and Wales alongside a ban on multi-buy discount deals.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was making “no excuses” for clamping down on the country’s drink problem but admitted minimum pricing would not be “universally popular”.

The move was met with opposition from the drinks industry, with some accusing Mr Cameron of being “seriously misguided”.

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, is known to be against tighter regulation of the sector and has previously described minimum pricing as an “absurd” tool for tackling drink abuse.


The announcement has been welcomed by alcohol abuse campaigners. Emily Robinson, rirector of campaigns for Alcohol Concern, told Channel 4 News: “I do think it will have an impact. There is quite a bit of research to suggest a clear link between comsumption and price. In particular young people are very sensitive to price. If price goes up on cider, spirits etc it will improve their health and improve Saturday night experiences for everyone really.”

But while it welcomes many of the government’s measures to tackle the problem Ms Robinson says there is still more to be done: “We would like to see more concrete action in two areas. The drinks industry spends £800m on marketing alcohol, we need strict measures to restrict advertising.

“Second, treatment for alcohol issues is currently a Cinderella service – it’s underfunded. What we think needs to happen is a rebalancing of the money spent on drugs to alcohol.”

But an alcohol treatment service in Yorkshire told Channel 4 News it does not think the policy will work.”Absolutely not,” said a spokeswoman from the Haven Alcohol Rehabilitation Unit in Bridlington. She said: “It doesn’t matter how much alcohol costs if someone is dependent on it – they will even do without food if necessary. More money needs to be put into prevention – alcohol education, like smoking education, needs to start in schools.

“This policy won’t make any difference. One of our clients says it’s ‘ridiculous’.”

The “alcohol strategy” is intended to turn the tide against irresponsible drinking, which costs the UK an estimated £21bn a year. It sets out plans for a minimum unit price, possibly 40p, bans multi-buy discount deals and introduces a “zero tolerance” approach to drunken behaviour in A&E departments.

Read: Gary Gibbon’s blog on David Cameron’s alcohol epiphany

The news comes after a report from the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network which found the number of deaths from liver disease in England has jumped by a quarter, with alcohol abuse a major contributing factor.

The government hopes minimum pricing will spell the end of cheap white ciders, spirits and super-strength lagers.

Under the plans, buy-one-get-one-free deals could be banned but half-price deals could stay. The government intends to consult on the strategy over the summer with a view to introducing legislation as soon as possible.

We asked Channel 4 News’ Facebook fans if the policy would make them change their behaviour regarding alcohol:

Terence Strugnell It’s about time they clamped down on the booze industry. I’d double the price of canned beer and sprits. Drinkers will bankrupt the NHS and local councils having to clean up the mess left by them.
Clare Storey I think unless we limit where people can buy alcohol from it won’t affect the amount people drink. When my Dad was young he said you could only get alcohol from an off-licence and in a pub.
Luke Barratt Punishing everyone for the people that will be drunk and violent anyway is not the way to go. Fine, ban, arrest the idiots that don’t drink responsibly, don’t tax low wage people that just like to drink in peace.
Dan Fraser It would be better to do this in conjunction with a cap on mark up in bars and clubs, its the disparity that fuels the so called “pre-load”
John Payne Somehow I doubt if minimum pricing would have prevented Bullingdon Club smashing up restaurants ;-)

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