Minimum pricing of alcohol and multi-buy promotions

ConversationWe are seeing a continued growth in hospital admissions and liver disease as a result of alcohol across the County. The cost of dealing with alcohol related harm in Warwickshire each year is estimated at £300million.

As part of wider reforms to tackle irresponsible drinking the government is currently consulting on a range of measures

  • a ban on multi-buy promotions
  • a review of the mandatory licensing conditions
  • a minimum unit price of 45p
  • a new health-related objective for alcohol licensing
  • cutting red tape for responsible businesses

There is a formal consultation process underway (Details here: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/news/alcohol-consultation-launched and here http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/alcohol-consultation/)

But we also want to offer an opportunity to take part in an informal discussion through this site.

What do you think of this  initiative? By raising the cost of alcohol will this stop irresponsible drinking? Will hospital admissions for liver disease as a result of alcohol drop?

Let us know your views.

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About Warwickshire Observatory
Warwickshire County Council's home for information and intelligence about Warwickshire and its people.

19 Responses to Minimum pricing of alcohol and multi-buy promotions

  1. Kim Hughes says:

    Again the less well off is targeted by using a rise in the cost of an item to try to solve a problem, it is a very blunt tool to solve the problem of binge drinking.

    • Harvey Harries says:

      Totally agree – the majority of people are responsible with regard to their drinking and are being punished because of the behaviour of the minority.

  2. Damon Brown says:

    This is an issue with multiple layers. Supermarkets selling poor quality alcohol at knock down prices one issue. Who buys it and how they consume it is another. Unfortunately, the problem has been made worse by a previous, well intentioned piece of legislation that forced brewers to divert themselves of their pub estates. This led to the demise of many local pubs when combined with cheap supermarket booze promotions. Sure, we now need something to be done to tackle the supermarket issue but we also need something to be done to encourage craft and micro-brewers (as is happening in the USA) at the expense of multi-national brewing concerns that churn out cheap rubbish aimed at supermarket promotions. After all, Newcastle Brown Ale should only be brewed in Newcastle, Guinness only be brewed in Dublin and why would anyone want to buy Stella that has been brewed in Luton rather than Leuven?

  3. Tim Matthews says:

    It is fundamentally wrong to penalise the responsible majority for the irresponsibility of the few. Education is the answer.

  4. Paul Hooper says:

    Thanks for leaving comments.

    Minimum pricing is only one of the proposals out for consultation. The purpose of minimum unit pricing is to reduce excessive alcohol consumption, by linking the price of alcohol to its strength. It is designed to increase the price of the cheapest and strongest alcohol. This will protect vulnerable younger and heavier drinkers who are more likely to drink cheap alcohol. However, it is also true to say that some people may pay slightly more for their alcohol than they currently do. This has to be balanced against the effects on society from over-consumption which we all pay for in one way or another.

    What do people think about banning multi-buy promotions? . Cheap alcohol deals and the price differential between on- and off-trade may result in people drinking more than intended – should this be controlled?

    Paul Hooper
    Group Manager for Community Safety and Substance Misuse, Warwickshire County Council

    • SadButMadLad says:

      You are assuming that vulnerable younger and heavier drinkers are poor and so the increaser in price will dissuade them from drinking. What about well off youngsters? Don’t some of them also drink heavily too? An increase in the price will not make any difference to them.

      Or do you think only the poor are stupid enough to to waste money on drinking cheap cider and the rich only drink wine which is OK.

      Your policies are very regressive, penalising the poor who can’t afford to spend a lot on entertainment. Yes, drinking is entertainment when it is part of socialising.

      All this work is not necessary anyway. Alcohol consumption is going down. You should know that, as you should be able to see the statistics yourself. If you haven’t then you are not doing your job properly – or you are not using them in order to promote your own agenda of puritanical control of removing any form of pleasure.

      See the graph on page 3 of the pdf available from http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN03311

      • Paul Hooper says:

        Thanks for leaving your comments. I should first point out that the alcohol consultation is not a Warwickshire County Council initiative (it is from the Government). The purpose of having a consultation is to receive views from all sources so your engagement in the process is appreciated.

        My comments relating to poor and vulnerable people were in response to previous contributors.

        There is adifference between overall consumption and individual risk to health. Estimates of alcohol consumption in Warwickshire (from Topography of Drinking Behaviours in England, 2011) show that in most district and boroughs the proportion of the population with ‘increasing risk’ from alcohol consumption is higher than the West Midlands average and in all district and boroughs the population estimated to be in the ‘higher risk’ category is higher than the West Midlands average. In particular Stratford (considered affluent) has the greatest proportion of higher risk drinkers in the County. Details for all areas can be found here http://bit.ly/YPOFzf

        In addition, figures produced by the North West Public Health Observatory show that the rate of alcohol related hospital admissions amongst Warwickshire residents increased year on year from 2002/03 till 2012. This relates to all conditions with an alcohol element but does not include those who attend A&E and are not admitted.

        If we also take into account the violence, disorder and other social impacts of over consumption of alcohol the need to address misuse of alcohol is clear.

        If we as a society fail to address misuse then we will end up having to pay for the consequences. The consultation seeks views on some actions under consideration.

    • lfb says:

      Could I suggest you address the simple fact that since the 1970s, drinking rates have steadily declined, indeed they continue to so so!

      So in reality there is not a drinking problem, there is no need for minimum pricing of alcohol whatsoever, unless of course it’s not about price? Could it be that the puritans in our councils just can’t stop telling people what the councils think is permissible.

      All the current data used by councils, fake charities et al, are all distorted and twisted so as to make a problem seem to exist when it really isn’t a problem at all!!

      • Paul Hooper says:

        Thanks for your comments. I have addressed many of your points in my reply to ‘SadButMad Lad’. I repeat that this consultation is from the Government and not Warwickshire County Council. We are encouraging public debate and response.

        I can assure you that we strive to ensure that the data we use and report as part of our governance arrangements are as accurate as possible. However, we also use our own eyes and experiences. I have personally observed drinking behaviour on the streets of Warwickshire towns and also observed the consequences in the A&E departments of local hospitals. I can assure you there is a set of problems caused by the misuse of alcohol. These have a dramatic impact on the lives of individuals and result in additional costs for public services.

  5. Anthony says:

    Firstly, a minimum unit price has already been shown to be illegal under EU law.

    Secondly, the figures given are complete rubbish when you consider how the NHS wildly distorts alcohol-related admissions. If I were to take one sip of wine and then break my leg in a fall – that is classed as an “alcohol-related admission”. Complete rubbish of course, but how else are fake charities such as Alcohol Concern – who receive 90+% of their income from grants and consultancy fees from the NHS – going to keep their gravy train going?

    • Paul Hooper says:

      Thanks for your comments. I understand that the EU legal position has been raised as an issue that will need to be addressed should the Government pursue minimum pricing as one of the policy options.

      Details on the methodology behind alcohol profiles can be found here. http://bit.ly/YQ3n9j

  6. Anthony says:

    Sorry, but the EU legal position cannot be “addressed”. It is illegal. End of.

    To change it would require treaty renegotiation across all member states and that is never going to happen. It is why the Scottish Government had to abandon the policy. One of the “benefits”, of non-self determination, I suppose.

    As already pointed out, alcohol consumption is steadily declining year-on-year. It has been proven the NHS regularly change the admission profiles to show an apparent increase in admissions.
    Meanwhile, local and central government continues to use the big stick rather than address the actual issues, such as night-time policing, sentencing, and local business rates. Rugby town centre is a graveyard at night with no-one other than pub goers on the streets amid the growing number of empty shops that cannot compete with the large shops on the edge of town. My wife and I would like to go into town before the 7.30pm theatre start but don’t because the parking charges in the empty car parks does not end until 7pm. Hence, any money that could be spent in town goes elsewhere.

    Its the lack of coherent, joined-up thinking and treating the poor saps paying for it all as idiots that is so frustrating. I can only think of it as democracy in decline as people like ourselves just switch off from it all, give up on voting at all and look for ways in the short term of avoid paying tax by any means possible in order to be able to leave the country permanently.

    • Paul Hooper, WCC says:

      Thanks Anthony.

      The legal argument is rehearsed on this site http://www.shaap.org.uk/pages/117,Legal_framework.html

      I paraphrase the last paragraph…

      It has been suggested that a minimum price level could be ensured by increasing the excise duties on alcohol. However, based on the apparent pricing practices of major grocery retailers in the UK, we know that alcohol is frequently sold at at loss, with many promotional offers and periods throughout the year. An increase in alcohol taxation is not guaranteed to lead to an increase in alcohol prices all of the time. Whereas minimum pricing for alcohol is a fixed floor that cannot be undercut by loss-leading and below-cost selling. On this basis an argument for minimum pricing on public health grounds could be put forward.

      We will have to wait and see.

  7. TG says:

    When we look at figures we should remember that 20 yrs ago 90% of beer was dispensed in a pub, that has now dropped to under 50%. Pubs which used to be part of our communities are rapidly closing; so the responsible landlords who used to send someone home with a quiet friendly word before they drank to oblivium are no longer there to Police the misuse. Those that are left, will now be faced with higher costs in a policing levy, for serving soft drinks to people who come into their premises pre-loaded from the pile it high sell it cheap supermarkets. Anyone thought about the effect on jobs and communities if you prevented supermarkets from selling alcohol, only allowed it to be sold through properly managed Pubs and Off-Licences??? If you want to look at pricing in this Industry why is it cheaper to purchase 3 pints of beer then it is to buy 3 soft drinks???

    With regard to the NHS the facts are that more people are dying of alcohol related liver disease than they are from smoking related illness. This does stretch the NHS and needs to be addressed.

    • Paul Hooper, WCC says:

      Thanks for responding

      The minimum pricing proposals would not have an impact on pub prices but would increase the price on some supermarket cheap deals.

      Without wishing to suggest that liver disease is not important deaths from this cause are currently much lower than deaths from smokin-caused illnesses. However, the trend is very disturbing. Whilst deaths from smoking related diseases are falling as the smoking prevalence reduces the opposite is true for people dying from liver disease. Deaths from this cause rose from 9,231 in 2001 to 11,575 in 2009 – approximately 25% increase. This is one reason why we cannot afford to be complacent about the impact of misuse of alcohol.

      • TG says:

        Should have said alcohol related deaths have overtaken smoking related deaths. This covers all reasons not just Liver and were quoted by Chief Medical Officer on the programme headed by Alistair Campbell last year looking into alcoholism amongst professional people. Figures can paint whatever picture you want most important thing is we cannot afford to ignore what is going on. If you read the Government Document it concentrates on what goes on in our towns and cities on a Friday and Saturday night and in the Casualty Departments those same evenings. Whilst there is an issue to be addressed here it doesn’t look at the issue 24/7 every day of the week In people’s homes and on the wards of our hospitals where people with alcohol related illnesses are as opposed to the alcohol related injuries in Casualty on a Friday and Saturday night. We have allowed the issue to get out of control and it needs some joined up participation, action to turn the tide. Minimum pricing will have little if any impact.

        • Paul Hooper, WCC says:

          Thanks TG. This discussion forum is specifically related to the Government’s consultation. However, in Warwickshire we have a comprehensive plan to tackle misuse of alcohol. The plan includes activity on three key themes – ‘Challenge and enforcement’; ‘Health, treatment and recovery’ and ‘Education and prevention’. Revised and updated last year, the plan includes action being taken or proposed by a variety of agencies in Warwickshire and will be amended as actions are completed; new activities undertaken or if legislation is amended.

  8. David Hopkins says:

    The problem is not unit pricing, the problem is the retail alcohol trade selling alcohol to those who have already had enough before they arrive at the bar or club. There should be very strict controls on entering bars and clubs with properly trained door staff and Bar staff refusing entry or sales to those who have had enough to drink. There used to be an obligation under the law which left alcohol licence holders liable to prosecution if they sold more alcohol to someone who was obviously intoxicated. Whilst the judgement may be subjective it would reduce the amount of drunkeness on our streets at night and the number of A & E admissions. There needs to be stricter controls by the licensing authority and the Police in enforcing the law that was made to provide protection for the public. Bars and Clubs found contravening this should be closed permanently. One closure in each town would soon reduce the amount of inebriated people of all ages causing trouble in our towns and cities. Why should us responsible drinkers have to pay for the irresponsible minority. Fair play for all

  9. nic says:

    We should not have minimum pricing – just make it illegal to sell under the cost of the product

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