End to cheap booze adverts?


discarded booze bottleDavid Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The government clampdown on cheap alcohol continues. The Daily Telegraph reports today that government insiders are suggesting there could be a ban on adverts for cheap alcohol - so the 'half price' events and 'three bottles of wine for £10' deals could be a thing of the past.

So is this likely to go ahead, and if so, what will it mean for consumers?


The Coalition is putting together a broad strategy towards alcohol, which could include both minimum pricing and a ban on advertisements for cheap alcohol. David Cameron himself is said to be spearheading the campaign. An aide told The Daily Telegraph: "The alcohol strategy will be published in a month or so. The PM has made very clear that he thinks the availability of cheap alcohol is a problem. It is not secret that this is an issue that the PM is concerned about."

The issue around supermarkets is partly because they use beer and wine as a 'loss leader' around major holidays in order to get people in through the door. As a result, alcohol is often available at knock-down prices.

A report by the Department of Health in 2010 recommended minimum pricing as part of a package of measures to deal with binge drinking. A Home Office report in 2011 agreed: "On balance the evidence shows that increases in alcohol prices are linked to decreases in harms related to alcohol consumption."

New prices

The figure being bandied around is approximately 40p per unit of alcohol. The University of Sheffield modeled around 50p, and the Home Office around 45p. It would mean, for example, a litre bottle of vodka, containing 40 units, would have to cost at least £16, and a bottle of wine containing nine units would have to cost £3.60.

There's an argument it would control the sale of absurdly cheap alcohol, and that moderate drinkers (and middle class voters) are unlikely to fall into the kinds of brackets where these minimums start to bite. However, there are plenty of skeptics.


Andrew Lansley, the health minister, spoke out at the end of last year against it - saying that people would still drink, those on lower incomes would just run into financial difficulties in order to do so.

A study by the University of Sheffield has also highlighted that it would affect the heaviest drinkers less. It found that for most groups, a 10% increase in price would lead to drinkers consuming 10% less. However, heavy drinkers would consume just 2.1% less - meaning minimum pricing would benefit retailers more than the drinkers intended as the target.

The British Retail Consortium has spoken out against the policy, saying that although it recognises more needs to be done to tackle irresponsible drinking; "We do not support untargeted measures that will simply penalise the vast majority of the population that drink responsibly, such as minimum pricing and bans on promotion."

There, therefore, remains the question of whether this policy will ever get off the ground. But what do you think? Do you support the idea? let us know in the comments.