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alcohol health alliance uk

The alcohol industry is putting profit first

Posted 29/01/13

As you will be aware in response to the Government’s consultation we have been campaigning for minimum unit price to be set at a realist and effective level – no less than 50p. Evidence has shown us that after ten years, every year in England a minimum 50p per unit will:

However, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has aggressively opposed the introduction of MUP from the outset. Today (Tuesday 29th January) it launched a campaign targeting the general public titled ‘Why Should We Pay More?’ The campaign will underline their core messages about MUP:

Their solution is to toughen existing laws, improve education and invest in partnership schemes at a local level.

WSTA members range from major retailers, brand owners and wholesalers including SABMiller, Diageo, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons. They describe themselves as part of a ‘powerful, unified industry voice, helping us secure the UK as a good place for the wine and spirit sector to do business.’

The alcohol industry is putting profit first.  

It is vital that we continue to dispel the myths from the alcohol industry and highlight the positive impact that a MUP will have in the North East, and the rest of the UK.

MUP is a targeted measure. It’s needed, it’s wanted and it works

Targeted: affects cheap strong products drunk by young people and heavy drinkers (white cider, very cheap vodka); won’t affect pub prices; low risk drinkers (drinking within limits) would spend on average less than 30p a week extra
Needed: alcohol is 45% more affordable than it was in 1980; a 2 litre bottle of strong cider containing more units than a woman should drink in a week can be bought for less than £2
Wanted: supported by doctors, police, 8 out of 10 NE pub landlords, the general public (53% in support); and even some of those who make and sell alcohol, including Tescos
Works: all the independent evidence shows when you increase price of alcohol, consumption goes down, especially amongst young people and heavy drinkers; 50p MUP would save over 3,000 lives a year across the country; it would cut 46,000 crimes.

Several claims are being made by the alcohol industry  - and here are our responses:

It won’t work
Independent experts say it will work – and it does work in Canada. An independent academic paper about to be published shows that when minimum price went up by 10% in British Columbia alcohol attributable deaths fell by a third. It’s common sense, if the price goes up people buy less

It will penalise the poor
More people on low incomes don’t drink. Work done in Scotland shows that 80% on low incomes would hardly be affected. If people on low incomes drink above the limits they are more likely to suffer bad health as a result – so they will benefit from MUP. It will penalise global alcohol companies because the only way to reduce harm is to reduce how much they sell.

It will penalise moderate drinkers
This is a targeted measure which particularly affects cheap, strong alcohol consumed by some young people and heavy drinkers. It won’t affect the price of a pint in a pub. You’ll still be able to buy branded lager in a supermarket for less than £1 a can and a branded bottle of wine for between £4 and £5. On average people drinking within the recommended limits will be spending less than 30p a week extra

In times of austerity people shouldn’t have to pay extra for their alcohol
People are paying for the harm caused by alcohol, whether they drink or not. Alcohol harm costs the NE over £1bn a year . There is also some evidence that the price of non-alcohol goods in supermarkets is higher to subsidise cheap alcohol deals. If people drink within the limits they will pay on average less than 30p a week extra.

Consumption is already falling
There have been some falls in sales of alcohol in recent years, possibly because people have less money to spend. But the official figures tell us that drinkers are still consuming twice as much pure alcohol as they did in the 1950s. The alcohol industry sells enough alcohol for every drinker to consume above the recommended limits every week.

Putting the price up will increase illicit sales
Alcohol is more affordable than ever and there is illicit alcohol around now. Tobacco is increasingly highly regulated yet the latest figures show that they percentage of illegal product in the market is falling because it is being policed properly.

It’s illegal
If the WSTA is convinced it is illegal, why are they spending so much on an advertising campaign? The alcohol industry is behaving like the tobacco industry in challenging this democratic measure in the courts in order to delay its introduction. The Scottish and UK Governments are determined to continue to fight for MUP and are confident they can win.

The rest of Europe doesn’t have a problem
Europe has some of the highest drinking levels in the world. Until recently liver disease in France was twice as high as the UK – but we have caught up.

It will lead to job losses
Jobs are already being lost. Pubs are closing and high street off licence chains have disappeared because they can’t compete with cheap supermarket alcohol.

The evidence is questionable
The Canadian province of Saskatchewan offered a confirmatory real-world test of whether plans in Britain to impose minimum price really will reduce consumption. Introduced in 2010, key findings have suggested:
A 10% increase in the minimum prices reduced total consumption by 8%
Bigger increases in minimum prices for stronger drinks resulted in proportionately bigger reductions in consumption of those products
A 10% increase in the minimum price of beer was associated with a 22% decrease in consumption of higher strength beer compared with an 8% reduction in lower strength beers
An increase in the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol was accompanied by a shift in consumer preferences towards lower alcohol content beer, wine and cocktails.

It’s unpopular
Here in the North East more than half of people are in support of a minimum unit price. MUP is supported by people who put health and wellbeing first, such as the British Medical Association. It is also supported by publicans, the Association of North East Councils and our partners across the region. It is opposed by some who have a legal obligation to put the profits of their shareholders first.