Monday, January 11, 2010
Would a Minimum Price on a Unit of Alcohol Improve our Lives?
The excellent Economist magazine addresses the subject of cheap booze this week and considers the proposal that a minimum price be fixed for one unit of booze. It flags up that at Sainsbury's it is possible to get a pint for 34p. Admittedly it's a sweet, sickly cider but that won't deter an addict or any number of youngsters eager to get drunk cheaply. The Health Select Committee has suggested a minimum price would prevent such dangerous availability to the young and the addicted. Sheffield University research suggests a charge of 40 pence poer unit would save 1000 lives a year- at 50 pence 3000 would be saved.
It used to be the case that France led the European league of those with liver disease; we overtook them two or three years ago as the above table illustrates. The top table shows how alcohol consumption has declined in Britian from 11 litres per person in 1900, fell to about four during the midle of the century and then soared back up to double figures by the end of it. Per capita consumption is not especially high- we come 8th in Europe on that scale but when the 12% who do not drink are excluded the amount shifts up more than few notches. Moreover research shows Brits are more likely than other nationalities in Europe to end up fighting after drink or upset their families. Moreover, we Brits trend to indulge in binge drinking, unlike the continentals who sip slowly over long periods.
A minimum price would upset the producers of the booze but would not upset pub owners as this would equal the playing field a bit with the super-markets which are so undercutting their trade. Such a move might help persuade drinkers to revisit their pubs rather than sitting like The Royle Family on their sofas, swiggiung cheap cans of lager. Nick Cohen writing in the Observer yesterday, emitted a howl of rage at this 'new puritanism':
What do you imagine they say is a "moderate" level of drink? According to the health committee, the answer is six units – that is three pints or one bottle of wine – a week. This is not a misprint. The committee and its associated health professionals do not believe that three pints is a reasonable amount for an evening or a day, but the boundary a "moderate" drinker must not cross from one weekend to the next.
I suspect he has no reason to worry. Whether the government will bring in a measure bound to create controversey and offend a large number of voters a few months efore an electiohn is unlikely. But nevertheless, at the risk of being a puritan, a minimum price would be a postive step in the right direction.
the fact is getting a drink now is easier, it's cheaper.
But do i blame people, well i have young people who I use to coach in football now working in retail, Labour new work and employment the retail supermarket. which has taken over from the coal mies and steel works, tell me they are drinking or taking drugs because the job is totally dead end. and I do not blame them.
How do we stop people drinking, when i was working in the building trade i get up at 5.30 am drive to work finish at 6pm, drive home and fall into bed, I was to tired to drink or go out.
Now working stacking shelves is seen as a job working in retail with the promise you can work your way up, my ass it is, it's dead end soul destroying work.
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