Minimum price will have minimum impact

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As a student at York, your list of priorities might go something like this: getting absolutely prawn crackered, sleeping, eating and then maybe the odd attempt at your degree. However that first priority, indulging in the precious commodity, alcohol, is now under threat, courtesy of Theresa May, Home Secretary.

This year, my housemates and I have moved even closer to Aldi. Where else would you find frozen food, baby shoes, fruit, an axe, and a guitar in the same aisle? Aside from the strange layout, there is one fantastic feature of this shop; the hideously cheap alcohol prices. A personal favourite of mine is their £8 bottle of vodka with no labelling other than the Russian word itself, although there is the legend of four bottles of wine for £4.

Liberated from the irony of Costcutter, this has provided a newfound boost to a second year’s bank account. However, wherever you get your alcohol I’m sure that if like me you live up to the binge drinking stereotype, you will be outraged by the minimum pricing plans.
Allow me put this into perspective. My beloved, albeit questionable, Aldi vodka would rise to £11.79. Forget £9,000 tuition fees, this unjustified alcohol increase is the real bombshell.

But look at the arguments for minimum pricing, apparently aimed at tackling Britain’s binge drinking culture and booze problem. Fair enough, we have a big problem. The amount of alcohol this nation drinks is affecting people’s health. But what is not fair is to try to implement a policy that is hardly legal, and where the evidence is based simply on a few studies.

Firstly, it is often forgotten that older generations actually binge drink as well. If a few 40 year olds have a night in on the port and gin, or a husband and wife get carried away and have a few bottles of wine, this is still classed as being on the binge. Is minimum pricing really going to affect them? This seems all too unlikely.

Now let’s stagger back to campus and look at students’ drinking habits. Everyone has had to manage a budget in some way. We have all spent enough money to bail out a failing European state, yet we still manage to go out. How we make the savings, no one really knows, but we do.
If minimum pricing came in we would continue like this; the price of inebriation might be more, but we would just spend a couple of pounds less on food. It wouldn’t matter anyway as we would recover our daily subsistence in free prawn crackers at The Willow. Oh, and there’s another flaw; the minimum pricing doesn’t cover bars, clubs or even Chinese restaurants. Nightclubs will still put on drinks deals and continue to outdo each other.

I’m not saying the Government shouldn’t be doing anything, just that this is the wrong approach. There is a problem and it needs to be dealt with, but a price increase just won’t work. Drinking is now part of our culture, and just as it is part of student life, it is part of the lives of many adults.

For the binge drinking problem to be solved, we need a more imaginative policy. It is about changing people’s perception of booze, instead of just charging them more. Ignoring the huge concerns with the plan, even if Theresa May and her cronies get this passed through Parliament, they have another challenge. The alcohol industry will take them on.

Take your bets. The proud stature of Johnnie Walker and friends against an incompetent Cabinet Minister, in desperate need of a Malcolm Tucker to put her into shape; I know who I fancy to win. What’s more, that little organisation called the European Union will also have something to say about it, as they did north of the Border.

And while we may occasionally get thrown out of a club for consuming too much sambuca, it is more likely that this poorly-thought out inception will be thrown out by the courts, or even by Theresa May’s Right Honourable friends.

3 comments

  1. “Proud stature of Johnnie Walker and friends.”

    Actually most Large alcohol companies don’t care about, and will probably benefit, from the minimum price laws. Their products are already above the minimum price.

    This effect will be a smaller price gap (or no difference in price) between your Aldi Vodka and Smirnoff/Absolut voda, resulting in more people choosing to buy the more ‘premium’ product.

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  2. Excellent blogpost. However, one small correction. Minimum pricing certainly will apply to pubs, bars and restaurants – it’s just that very little they sell currently comes below that level. But give it a few years…

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  3. More price increases, the one thing with alcohol is you can always brew your own, and get seriously smashed for very little money, you can buy kits to make 21 litres of half strength vodka, using turbo yeast, for about £17 plus sugar comes in at around £1 a bottle if you get a dry distiller (illegal in the UK to distill alcohol) you can make a full strength for £2 a bottle.

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