Swanswell welcomes the below-cost ban on alcohol but calls for wider measures

28 May 2014

Swanswell welcomes a new ban, implemented today, stopping the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT. The ban prevents businesses from selling alcohol at heavily discounted prices and aims to reduce excessive alcohol consumption and its associated impact on alcohol-related crime and health harms.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug misuse, supports the government’s below-cost ban on alcohol but calls for wider measures to be implemented to help tackle alcohol misuse. Swanswell believes the below-cost ban won’t be as effective as charging a minimum of 45p per unit of alcohol in reducing alcohol-related deaths and crime.

The University of Sheffield predict the below-cost ban will only reduce overall alcohol consumption by 0.04% (this equates to 0.3 units or less than half a pint of beer per drinker, per year). However, they predict the impact of a 45p minimum unit price would be around 40 to 50 times larger than the below-cost ban.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said:  ‘While it’s great to see the government taking steps to reduce the impact that alcohol is having on society, we still need to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol.

‘Reports suggest that a below-cost ban is 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 of what a minimum unit price will achieve.

Research suggests a minimum unit price of 45p would see a reduction in 635 alcohol-related deaths per year, 23,700 hospital admissions and 34,200 crimes. The below-cost ban is estimated to see a reduction of 15 alcohol-related deaths per year, 500 hospital admissions and 900 crimes.

However, price is only one element that needs to be considered – promotion, place and the product itself should be investigated too, 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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