Update: Swanswell calls for urgent alternatives to dropped minimum pricing plans

17 July 2013

Swanswell’s calling on the government to urgently consider viable alternatives to tackling alcohol misuse following confirmation that plans for minimum pricing in England are to be shelved.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding after Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said the policy would remain ‘under consideration’ but that ‘it will not be taken forward at this time' (reports BBC News).

The government’s plans would have seen the introduction of a minimum price of 45 pence per unit of alcohol, which would have seen retailers having to charge at least £1.56 for a can of strong lager (7.9%) and more than £4.22 for a bottle of wine (12.5%).

Research suggests a minimum unit price of 45p would reduce alcohol consumption by 4.3%, see 66,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions and lead to 2,000 fewer deaths after ten years.

A ban on multi-buy promotions has also been rejected but alcohol will not be allowed to be sold below the cost of duty plus VAT (reports the Guardian).

Swanswell believes measures that target price and promotion will help tackle alcohol misuse, if considered with other elements of the marketing mix – such as where alcohol is placed for sale and a look at the product itself.              

Better alcohol education, clearer information and fewer mixed messages should also become a priority, alongside increased investment in treatment and support services.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘After being so encouraged by the government considering minimum unit pricing as one of the options to tackle alcohol misuse, we’re disappointed that plans are being shelved.

Instead, the government is going to ban sales of alcohol below the value of alcohol duty and VAT, but it’s likely to only affect a small number of alcohol sales that are heavily discounted.

‘It means there will still be high-strength lagers and ciders available at low cost, which misses the point.

Price is only one element that needs to be considered – promotion, place and the product itself should be investigated, alongside better alcohol education and clearer information to help people make informed decisions about how much they’re drinking.

Ultimately, tackling alcohol misuse is not something that any government, organisation or individual can do on their own – we all have a part to play.’

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