EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing

Cheap alcohol ban will hit wine drinkers most

4 December 2008

Cheap alcohol ban will hit wine drinkers most by Alan Travis & John Carvel
The Guardian , 4 december 2008

Wine drinkers will be hit hardest by a proposal to ban cut-price alcohol promotions in supermarkets and off-licences, according to government-commissioned research published yesterday.

The Sheffield University study says a ban on discounts of more than 30%, such as "three for the price of two" offers, would affect wine consumption most, but have little effect on cheaper alcohol, such as lager and beers, selling for less than 30p a unit.

The research was commissioned by the Department for Health and looked at 40 separate alcohol policy options, including setting minimum prices per unit. It showed that reducing the quantity of cut-price alcohol on sale can reduce consumption and have significant effects on reducing related crime and ill-health.

More than 50% of supermarket alcohol is sold at a discount, albeit a small one in most cases.

The research also shows that targeting price increases at cheaper types of alcohol, particularly in bars and pubs where at-risk groups such as younger people do most of their drinking, would have an impact without unduly penalising moderate drinkers.

The more restrictive the pricing policy, the greater the harm reduction. There is relatively little effect from setting a minimum price of 20p a unit or a ban on buy-one-get-one free offers only, but the...#65279; researchers estimate that a 40p per unit minimum price could reduce hospital admissions by 41,000 a year and save the NHS £116m a year in treatment costs. This minimum price level would also reduce crime by 16,000 offences a year.

A ban on supermarket and off-licence discount promotions would cut crime by 14,000 offences a year, including 4,000 violent incidents, and reduce absenteeism from work.

Petra Meier, of Sheffield University's school of health, said the study was the first to look at the link between alcohol pricing and buying patterns, consumption and harm. "The results suggest that policies which increase the price of alcohol can bring significant health and social benefits," she added.

The Home Office confirmed last night that a proposed ban on cut-price promotions, such as "all you can drink for £10" and "buy two bottles and get £1 off", applied to all alcohol, including wine.

The mandatory code of conduct that the government intends to introduce to cover alcohol sales will include measures to ensure supermarket customers are not required to buy large amounts of product to take advantage of price discounts.

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has drawn back from imposing a national blanket ban on cut-price promotions, and instead she proposes to delegate to local licensing authorities the power to tackle specific problems of irresponsible drinking.

This could include limiting the sale of cheap alcohol and banning promotions such as happy hours, drinking games or organised pub crawls. Breaches could lead to possible loss of a licence for the pub or bar involved.

Smith said yesterday: "I don't want to stop the vast majority of people who enjoy alcohol and drink responsibly from doing so, but we all face a cost from alcohol-related disorder. I have a duty to crack down on irresponsible promotions that can fuel excessive drinking and lead people into crime and disorder."

The British Beer and Pub Association welcomed the focus on bans of irresponsible promotions, but said they should cover everyone who sold alcohol. They also warned that other parts of the proposed mandatory code would increase red-tape and lead to more pub closures.

The British Medical Association and health promotion charities said that the government's proposals were insufficient to significantly reduce the death toll from alcohol-related diseases.

Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said: "If the government is serious about tackling the UK binge-drinking culture, tougher action will be necessary. The evidence demonstrates that in order to address the major drivers of alcohol consumption, governments need to focus on price and availability. These proposals will only scratch the surface."

The BMA wanted tobacco-style health warnings on bottles and cans of alcohol and a ban on alcohol advertising, as well as a more wide-ranging drive against supermarket alcohol discounts.

Nathanson added: "Drinking too much alcohol is related to more than 60 conditions, including heart and liver disease, diabetes, strokes and mental health problems."

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "Since the national alcohol strategy was first introduced in 2004 some 60,000 people have died of alcohol-related illnesses. A large proportion of these could have been avoided if government had previously tackled the issue of cheap booze. We can't therefore afford any further delay in ending irresponsible alcohol pricing right across the board."

He added: "Drinkers also have a fundamental right to know the unit content of the drink they are buying - we see no value in delaying this basic public health requirement for alcohol unit labelling."

The Department of Health said a survey in July found only 43% of alcohol products were labelled with the number of units. Before going ahead with compulsory unit labelling, ministers wanted to complete a further survey early next year.

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: "It would be wrong if action aimed at tackling the problem minority resulted in ... responsible consumers paying a higher price for their weekly shop."


Original reports can be found on the website of the Sheffield University

(photo derived from: www.camra.org.uk)

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