The government has unveiled plans for minimum alcohol pricing in England. The proposal suggests a minimum price of 40 pence per unit as part of a wider alcohol strategy to curb health problems and crime associated with binge drinking.
It is estimated that each year alcohol causes over 1 million NHS hospitalisations and 1 million violent crimes in England, primarily through binge drinking. Earlier this week NHS figures revealed that deaths from liver disease had risen by 25% in less than a decade, mainly driven by alcohol.
The price of most drinks would be unaffected by a 40p threshold, although many super-strength and own-brand products could see large price rises: at present some super-strength lagers and ciders contain 4.5 units per can but sell for less than a pound, equating to less than 20p per unit.
Some bottles of ciders could also double in price, as some supermarkets sell them for less than 20p per unit – an equivalent of less than 50p per pint. This is well below the £3-£4 pounds charged in pubs.
The strategy has also called for consultation on multi-buy deals offering cheap alcohol in bulk, as well as a "zero tolerance" approach to dealing with drunken behaviour in A&E departments and new legislation over the licensing of pubs and clubs. The strategy is still at a proposal stage but the government hopes to implement it by 2015.
What is minimum pricing and why is it being proposed?
Minimum pricing per unit of alcohol is when no alcohol is allowed to be sold below a set price per unit. At present, supermarkets and other retailers frequently offer alcohol at discounted prices, with some reportedly offering alcohol at loss-making prices to attract customers. Bringing in a 40p per unit minimum would mostly affect cut-price brands, super-strength drinks and those offered at heavy discounts, but would be unlikely to affect many name brands or drinks in pubs.