Scotland Sets Minimum Alcohol Price

By McCarton Ackerman 05/16/12

The plan, meant to stop Scots "drinking themselves to death," is being criticized for unfairly targeting the poor.

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Scotland has been reassessing its relationship with booze in recent years, banning discount deals such as two-for-one on bottles of wine and restricting "irresponsible" drink promotions. However, the government there has now taken it a step further by setting a minimum price for alcohol at 50 pence (about 81 cents) per unit (that's 10 ml of pure alcohol, about a half pint of beer). The proposal is expected to be passed in the Scottish parliament next week and could come into effect next April. "Cheap alcohol comes at a price and now is the time to tackle the toll that Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking on our society," says Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. "Too many Scots are drinking themselves to death. The problem affects people of all walks of life." However, some critics object to the minimum price only affecting cheaper brands of alcohol and therefore lower-income drinkers. "(It is) a miserable, Victorian-era measure that explicitly targets the poor and the frugal, leaving the more expensive drinks of the middle classes untouched," says Sam Bowman, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute economic think-tank. According to Dr. Brian Keighley, chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, alcohol-related illness causes one death every three hours, not to mention economically unsustainable healthcare costs.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.