Swanswell calls for urgent alternatives to dropped minimum pricing plans

12 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 dropped.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding after it was revealed the Home Office is set to make an announcement next week formally abandoning the proposals, first set out last year.

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 (BBC News, 2012).

However, it’s reported that ministers will now press ahead with an alternative idea banning retailers from selling alcohol below cost price, also known as ‘loss leader deals’.

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 dropped.

Reports suggest that a below-cost ban is being considered but that’s likely to only affect a small number of alcohol sales that are heavily discounted, so there will still be high-strength lagers and ciders available at low cost, which misses the point.

Price is only one of the elements 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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