Wednesday 6 February 2008

Two for the price of three anyone?

There are some worrying noises coming out of the government at the moment on the subject of alcohol. The latest is about a crackdown on youngsters drinking in the streets; an interesting diversion from the usual binge drinking argument. The governmental solution would seem to be up the duty to such a rate that people can’t afford to get drunk. I also suspect that there are a few that would happily ban drink all together, although I don’t see prohibition being introduced here.

According to the BBC, “the home secretary is also demanding that drink manufacturers do more to stop alcohol being sold to under-18s”.

Apart from the drinks industry pumping money into advertising/education about drinks awareness I’m not sure what effective measures they could take. As an industry they could get together and agree to up the price of alcohol, but that would constitute a cartel, which is of course illegal.

Whilst some off-licences, pubs and clubs are no doubt guilty of promoting ‘binge drinking’ with promotions of various sorts, by far the biggest culprit in the cheap booze stakes is the supermarkets. When they are selling lager or cider at less than the price of bottled water you know there is a problem. Alcohol has never been as cheap in living memory as it is now, I’m sure. If duty goes up supermarkets will still continue to be cheap in relative terms. I’m a great believer in the nanny-state, so for me the answer would be for the government to set minimum prices for all alcohol wherever it was sold. For example if beer and cider had a minimum price of around £2.00 per pint it might well slow people down a bit. As would comparable prices for wine and spirits. A fair price for alcohol would be so much better than the extremes we live with now. A radical idea, and for all I know currently illegal under EU law. But an idea that’s less crazy than a duty hike. Discuss.