Comment: A policy to which we can finally raise a glass?
Amid the furore over pasties, petrol, dinners with Dave, electronic snooping and secret trials, the government made an announcement on alcohol pricing at the end of March which could have a massive impact on the streets of Jesmond.
The idea is that retailers will no longer be able to sell booze at below 40p a unit. That means some cheap drink will increase dramatically in price, but most alcohol bought in pubs and restaurants will not be affected, as it already costs more than 40p a unit.
For so many reasons this is a good idea. For a start the anti-social behaviour that blights many areas, including Jesmond, is largely fuelled by cheap alcohol. While it won’t completely stop this, it is a first step to curbing some of the worst excesses, caused by people drinking cheaply at home before they go out.
But the main reason minimum pricing is a good thing is the health benefits it could bring. It has long been known that consumption of alcohol is driven to a large extent by price. Put the price up and consumption will go down. Research published last year revealed that alcohol was available for as little as 12p a unit, meaning a man can drink his recommended daily limit (3–4 units) for just 48p. At that level it is basically a free for all, pocket money prices for enough booze to get a kid drunk.
Alcohol consumption is the third biggest contributor to disease in developed countries and in the UK young people aged between 16 and 24 consume more than any other group. The North East has a particular problem, which has been well documented.
We all pay for this and something needed to be done.
In the future it could be reviewed and the level may be increased. Many experts say that a limit of 50p a unit would be an even better option. That was the price suggested by Sir Liam Donaldson when he was Chief Medical Officer, and if the initial measures prove to be a success then I would expect the limit to be increased.
Pub landlords will also be pleased as the new pricing will not increase their prices but it will impact on cheap supermarkets and off licenses discounts, which are a big contributor to so many pubs going out of business in the last few years. It seems to be a policy with no losers. Makes a nice change.