Swanswell renews minimum unit pricing calls as government launches new alcohol pledges

08 July 2014

Swanswell’s renewing calls for the introduction of minimum unit pricing, as new pledges from the government and drinks industry are announced to help tackle the £21 billion cost of alcohol-related harm.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to an announcement from the Home Office after an ‘alcohol summit’ between ministers and industry representatives yesterday (07 July 2014).

A series of new pledges were agreed at the meeting to help people ‘drink responsibly’ and ‘make healthier choices’ including producers calling time on super-strength products in large cans, and retailers committing to responsible alcohol displays and promotions.

In addition, pubs and bars are being urged to stock house wines below 12.5% and to promote lower-alcohol or non-alcoholic products to customers.

The Home Office has also announced £250,000 of initial funding from the drinks industry for alcohol education programmes in schools.

However, there was still no mention of re-introducing plans for minimum unit pricing, shelved by the government in 2013 in favour of a ban on selling alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT, which was introduced earlier this year.        

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘While we welcome any action to help tackle problem alcohol use, we’re not seeing it on the scale it needs to be to make a big difference to the millions of people drinking at harmful levels.

There are some positive steps forward including extra funding for school alcohol education programmes, a commitment to responsible alcohol displays in shops, and promoting lower-alcohol and non-alcoholic products in pubs and bars.

However, there’s still a lot more that could be done to make the sort of changes we need to tackle the £21 billion drink.

Introducing minimum unit pricing, for example, could save hundreds of lives every year and reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions among heavy drinkers by tens of thousands – something we think is certainly worth trying.

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

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