I will readily admit that my knee-jerk reaction to a minimum alcohol pricing was a firm and semi-outraged NO. What right have the government to make my life more expensive when a pint down the pub is already close-on £3.50? 40p per unit of alcohol? I’m not a heavy drinker by any standards but a swift stamping-down was in order. Rally the troops!
Back to reality. 40p a unit is nothing – it’s not putting 40p on the price of every unit in a drink, just ensuring that there is 40p in the price per unit of alcohol. Once I thought about it I couldn’t see many drinks that the rule would actually affect: Sainsbury’s Basics vodka, perhaps, and Frosty Jack’s Fake Rancid Cider, definitely – neither of which I drink but that are a staple for binge drinking culture. In fact, I suspect that the cost-per-unit idea doesn’t go far enough;* it won’t make a difference to £1 doubles night, for example, and I can tell you first-hand that £1 doubles are a deadly thing indeed.
Something so deeply ingrained in the national habit as alcohol is never going to be the easiest thing to address, but I think a 40p-per-unit requirement is a decent first step that targets only those buying in units rather than drinks. I honestly cannot name anyone who enjoys the taste of Frosty Jacks or budget vodka, but I can name plenty of people who have drunk the stuff (myself included). If it were the same price as a better quality vodka/cider, then the choice would be obvious. The only risk I can see here is that the overall price of all supermarket alcohol will rise as the lowest denominator does – Smirnoff will raise prices to avoid association with Asda Smartprice – but that is something I reckon will only affect spirits. Supermarkets don’t tend to have own-brand wines and beers and so that negative image will not apply. Finally, the ‘percentage creep’ of wines and beers should reach a ceiling. The benefits are manifold. Make it law. Brilliant.
*Of course, it would never get passed if it went far enough to put an end to binge drinking, and probably with good reason for all the moderate drinkers out there.