What is Minimum Alcohol Pricing?
Minimum alcohol pricing is designed to deter the purchase of super-cheap alcohol such as strong cider, which can cost less than a bottle of cola or even bottled in water in some supermarkets and shops. It is considered that the over-consumption of these strong and cheap drinks can be the root cause of many of the UK’s social problems. Increased crime rates and strains on the NHS from cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, cancer, alcoholism, and mental problems can all somehow be linked to binge drinking.
According to a report carried out by the University of Stirling, the personal, social and economic cost of alcohol has been estimated to be up to £55bn per year for England and £7.5bn for Scotland. It is then the taxpayer who foots the NHS and policing bill.
The new law is not a tax and does not generate income for the government. Instead, its aims are to reduce the availability of cheap alcohol and deter it’s purchase, hopefully reducing the strain on national resources.
What will Everything Cost Now in Scotland?
The minimum price for a pint of beer (4% abv) is about £1.14 and the minimum for a bottle of 12% wine will be £4.50, so the move is unlikely to affect pubs and restaurants. But a survey of supermarkets in Glasgow saw own brand and lower end vodka, whisky and gin increasing by up to £4 a bottle! It is the super-strength cider that will be hit hardest, however, with a 2-litre bottle of Taurus Cider rising from £1.99 to a minimum of £5 – more than double!
Why is Minimum Alcohol Pricing Good?
With the general idea being to make the people pay the social cost of their own alcohol consumption, on the face of it how can it be a bad thing? It is also considered that it can discourage young drinkers from over-consumption, steering them away from the cheap big bottle of cider and onto lower strength bottles of beer.
It will hopefully have a positive effect on restaurants and pubs. People may go out to a pub and spend there, rather than “pre-loading” on cheap alcohol deals from supermarkets. This is a noticeable drain on social expense when seeing young drunk people in town centres on weekends, many of whom were drunk when they arrived for their night out!
Why is Minimum Alcohol Pricing Bad?
If we were to consider the first point above “make the people pay the social cost of their own alcohol consumption”, are they actually going to be paying for it? As this is not a tax, it essentially means more money to the supermarkets or producers. Yes, they may take a hit on volume, but if minimum pricing does not work, it is just further lining the pockets of big companies. It has also been argued that it would reduce living standards for those on low incomes as it will affect them the most.
Some fear that the people targeted by the increase who cannot afford to pay it may turn to illicit ‘home brews’ or stronger intoxicants. This is potentially dangerous as it leaves people exposed to alcohol of an unknown quantity and composition.
Will Minimum Alcohol Pricing Come into Force in England?
There is a plan for it to, but no date has been set, so we will just need to see what happens in Scotland. We think that most consumers would not be affected by this, and it may even be a positive thing for pubs and restaurants if it works. But, for the people it is targeting being forced to spend more money, or look to new sources to feed their addiction it could cause further social problems.
All we can say to summarise is that hopefully, it works in Scotland. Crimes rates fall, fewer people become ill, and pubs see a boost in trade.