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Brits Plot Price-Based Assault on Binge Drinking

The UK plans to crack down on its dangerous culture of binge drinking by banning cheap alcohol sales, enraging booze manufacturers.

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Will minimum booze pricing deter binge-drinking
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By Valerie Tejeda

03/26/12

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The UK government is introducing a plan that would prevent shops from selling cheap liquor, in an attempt to cut down on binge drinking. The plan would require stores to set a minimum price per unit for alcohol as well as to ban multi-buy discount deals. Home Secretary Theresa May said that the government wants to discourage people from drinking at home before an evening out. "What we ... want to do is to affect the cheapest end of alcohol—those sorts of offers that enable people to really do this pre-loading,” she said. “So many people now just get drunk at home before they go out, and that is what causes the problems in our town centers.” UK medical experts say that up to 210,000 people in England and Wales will be killed prematurely by alcohol in the next 20 years.

Unsurprisingly, the policy was immediately criticized by drink manufacturers and supermarkets, with some even claiming that the ban may be illegal. “Minimum-unit pricing is a blunt tool which would both fail to address the problem of alcohol misuse and punish the vast majority of responsible consumers,” said Gavin Partington, of the Wine and Spirits Association. The plan could take up to a year to become finalized—but according to a Downing Street spokesman, there shouldn't be a legal issue: “It’s easy to say it’s probably illegal but it’s never been done and there’s no test case so far."

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