Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pricing and Binge-drinking

I find the proposals for minimum pricing for alcohol quite an interesting idea. Basically the idea is that a minimum price per unit of alcohol is set, and then any drinks can't be sold for less than that price. The talk is of 40-50p per unit as a minimum level. Although it can't solve all alcohol abuse problems, it is believed that it could combat people drinking a load of cheap vodka before going out on the town. It would also set a more challenging price for the big plastic bottles of cheap strong cider.

As an experiment, I was looking at some of my favourite drinks and wondering what effect it might have on them. A bottle of Hobgoblin Ale by Wychwood Brewery has 2.6 units. A 50p minimum would mean it had to be sold for £1-30, which would be quite a competitive price; 40p would mean £1-04 minimum. Bottles of wine would have to cost £4 or £5, depending on strength and the level set. The biggest impact would be on cheap bottles of spirits, as a bottle typically contains 25-30 units, so that's £10-12 minimum. Again, no effect on the better quality end of the market.

So, is this common sense, or will it simply penalise the poorer drinker?

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1 comment:

Archdruid Eileen said...

It will of course penalise the poorer drinker, as they will get less drink for the same amount of money. On the other hand, the stuff that sells for less than 50p per unit is hideous anyway. The exception probably being the high-quality, but high alcohol, ciders. Westons Old Rosie sells for about £4 for 2 litres, and that's about 16 units of alcohol - so about 25p per unit. If you slapped a min price on these per unit they'd go up to about £8 for 2 litres, which seems a bit rough on the kind of small-ish companies that are in this market - but then the muck that is basically water, sugar and a drop of apple juice that is also purveyed as "cider" would go up the same way, so maybe that's not so bad.
I'd like to see any in increase in tax on off-sales, balanced by a reduction or support for local pubs. Thus encouraging sensibe social drinking in a managed environment. Unfortunately it would appear that the current Government hates local pubs (well, they're not restaurants in Islington), so I'm not going to hold out much hope.