Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bargain Boozing

I'm not an academic expert in the price elasticity of demand for over strength alcohol in those with alcohol related problems. I'm not publishing papers in the Lancet. I do however deal with a large number of people who have problems with alcohol and an even larger number of people who don't. In the course of my work I've encountered some people who's relationship with alcohol has led to their own death or those of others. I've seen folks slowly destroy their physical and mental health with drink. I've commented here before on the minimum alcohol price and my support for a sensible minimum. It's affect on me and my line of work would only be positive. The use of licenced front-line doorstaff is almost exclusively on licensed premises serving non-minimum price drinks to those with or without the money to pay for it.
What concerns me about the recent moves on minimum alcohol unit prices is two fold. The level it is set at is ridiculously low. The inability to retail at below the current taxation level doesn't set a sensible bar to problem drinkers. To be so low on funds, even benefit derived funds, to not be able to pickle yourself daily, is not stopped.
The second worry is that this will be brought in, then over time, once the general public has accepted the idea of a minimum, this minimum being the tax minimum, the tax will rise. The minimum price will go up, the problems with cheap drink will fall, the price will rise again. All the time the tax on all drinks will rise and the many punters, daily, weekly, monthly or occasional, will be paying with every drink. This will hurt hard the vast majority who drink without problem and the minimum unit pricing, will hurt everyone.