Raising the price of alcohol

March 16, 2009

Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson has recommended that the government should sharply raise the price of alcohol  to try to combat Britain’s chronic drinking problem.

His annual report calls for a minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol sold, which would nearly double the price of some discount beer and wine. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also shown interest in minimum pricing.

But the government is under no obligation to accept any such recommendation and is aware of the unpopularity of raising alcohol prices in a recession and not so far away from a general election.

Gordon Brown rejected the proposal outright.

The Conservatives say it is important to deal with people’s attitudes to drinking, not just supply and price, while the Liberal Democrats support putting an end to “pocket-money priced” alcohol.

What do you think? Does price play much of a part in Britain’s binge-drinking culture?


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Its high time something drastic is done ,as done to cigarettes.Some or same thouht be be given seriously to “other”SMOKES and DRUGS.The Latter contribute to a parallel economyand adverse effect on other services and resources.

Posted by praful | Report as abusive

The short and equally simple answer to this is ”NO”. It certainly will not work. You need more proof? There is proof all around you but just to make the point, take a look at Norway. That country has put up the price of Beers, wines and spirits again and again. The result? They have the highest prices for alcohol in the world and one of the highest Drink problems also… Just take a drive through any town at night and see the hundles of sad human beings on street corners and park benches. It did not work!! I can though understand the Governments desire to gravitate towards this so call solution as it will put more money into their coffers…. Traditionally the Government has always favoured solutions to problems that make money!! ie, The London congestion charges!!!!And while on the subject of traffic control… there is a way to reduce all traffic by up to 33% yet the Government is not interested in it because it would not make them any money.ok, enuff of this.. Tea time :-)

Posted by Peter Schwarz | Report as abusive

Need a re-definition on two counts:NHS should not cater for ‘self-infliction’, specifically illegal (or otherwise) drugs, alcohol excess, or tobacco related.If no support from NHS, remove tax take from alcohol and tobacco.This is the UK: it will never happen, as the Govt has its own drug problem called ‘tax anything that moves (or doesn’t)’, and the population are too soft to do anything other than bleat..

Posted by Herb | Report as abusive

It’s no surprise what the LibDems want – they are the new tax till the pips squeak party. The fact is that you’d have to increase prices hugely for it to have any impact, and that would be completely unacceptable politically because it would penalise everybody without distinction. What is needed is better education so that we get rid of Blair’s Real Babes, the worthless underclass that was created during his years in power.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Prices for alcohol in the UK are generally more cheap than ever before. Raising prices might well discourage those with the least money to drink so much. However, those who are addicted or just plain greedy do not think in a logical way! Therefore, the impact of raising prices would probably be fairly minimal. A zero-tolerance policy towards public drunkeness might work… if we had enough cells in police stations to deal with the problem! Ultimately, it is the idea that being drunk is somehow attractive or impressive that needs to be addressed. More education on this matter is needed in schools and colleges, and perhaps even homes!

Posted by Matthew Wilde | Report as abusive

A minimum price per unit would have some effect, but the problem is n not just the minority of ‘binge drinkers’.Getting on for half the population drink more alcohol than is good for them, we still have drink drivers, alcohol related crime, ie. violence vandalism etc. In my view the cost to the country is far greater than smoking which is rightly condemned at every opportunity.Re comment by Herb, how do you define self inflicting? Drugs, cigarettes, alcohol yes but also extreme sports, obesity etc are equally draining on the NHS.

Posted by john | Report as abusive

It seems that there is considerable concern over under age drinking at night in our towns and cities so why not raise the age for buying alcohol to 21 and go back to sensible opening hours for pubs/clubs.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Whilst i agreee that the actual effects of raising the minimum alcohol price are highly debatable – it will nonetheless be interesting to observe what will happen if Scotland presses ahead with it’s minimum-price proposal – will the rest of the UK follow suit a la the smoking ban?

Posted by health blog | Report as abusive

This is great news for supermarkets, now they can sell the cheapest for a very very good profit. No this will not stop binge drinking. Look at Norway and Sweden they still have massive issues and beer is around £4 per half pint. This will encourage less frequency in drinking habits but more binge; you only drink to get drunk as its expensive. Stop being our nanny and just let us get on with it.

Posted by Frank Kerrigan | Report as abusive

Increased taxes will not work. Instead raise the drinking age to 21 and throw everyone who is drunk on the streets into chokey with a fine.

Posted by w.fuller | Report as abusive