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Why should we pay for other people's drinking?

4th January 2011

Professor Anne Ludbrook from the Health Economics Research Unit at University of Aberdeen argues that it is unfair that we all pay the price for the damage caused by alcohol.

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Most people would feel short-changed if they were asked to contribute to a kitty for drinks but didn't get a drink.

But with alcohol, everybody pays the price, whether they drink or not with alcohol-related harm costing the country £25bn a year - or £500 for every adult – in health, fire, police and economic costs.

Even in supermarkets, with alcohol using drink as loss leaders, we may be paying more for groceries as we subsidise cheap alcohol.

Duty raises some money but not enough to cover the social cost of alcohol.

Minimum pricing would also be effective in reducing alcohol consumption and related harms while Swedish research shows that price increases targeted at the lowest cost brands would produce almost 2.5 times the reduction in alcohol consumption than an across the board price rise would.

Research shows that a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol would reduce alcohol consumption by 6.7% on average but the heaviest drinkers would reduce consumption by 10.1% because they tend to choose cheaper products.

That would save the economy £1bn in the first year alone.

Minimum pricing, though rejected in Scotland, has been recommended for consideration, though the government favours a ban on below-cost selling.

Minimum pricing of alcohol is effective and well targeted and making it less affordable is a positive start but a range of policies need to be put in place to address the problem.

 

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