Undoubtedly binge drinking is often attributed to the availability of low cost alcohol, and agreeably selling a 70cl bottle of Tesco Value vodka for under £10 is a recipe for a not-so-elegant disaster, but are the Government’s proposals for enforcing a minimum price for alcohol in England and Wales really a promise for change?
The argument claims that banning shops and bars from selling alcoholic drinks for less than the tax paid on them express the severity of the problem of cheap alcohol; perhaps this approach would be more effectively received had the Government planned more drastic measures, but the proposals for a minimum prices have been set extremely low.
The plans place a minimum price which means that a can of weak lager should be purchased for no less than 38p, and a litre of vodka sits at £10.71; almost £1.50 less than the cheapest litre bottle of vodka that can be purchased at Tesco.
Professor Ian Gilmore, of the Royal College of Physicians, told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “It’s a step in the right direction but I have to say, it’s an extremely small step. It will have no impact whatsoever on the vast majority of cheap drinks sold in supermarkets.”
Even local shopkeepers who were questioned have said that the government’s proposed minimum prices were far below what they had to charge in order to make a profit.
Though perhaps a reason to celebrate as the coalition finally follow through on previous plans made, the Government will face much criticism in its efforts leading to such an unsubstantial difference.
In reality; how cheap are the prices of drinks in bar? Excluding student prices, the majority of bars are criticised for being overpriced, not drawing a flood of hooligan binge drinkers as the price of alcohol is ‘just too cheap’.
Surely, the main culprits of binge drinking is the student population, and while I’m still enjoying my double southern comforts for £1.30, it is perhaps here that the changes need to be made.
This idea has not gone unrecognised; researchers at Sheffield University estimated last year that raising the price of alcohol to a minimum of 50p per unit would mean that after a decade there would be almost 3,000 fewer deaths every year, and 41,000 fewer cases of chronic illness.
It is not out of habit for the Government to disappoint the public, so why are they so keen to keep business and customers happy when such a life-affecting change is within reach?