Advantages It could deter some people from over indulging
Disadvantages It will cost me more money!
The Sin taxes
We are in the age of the nanny state where there is not a single bit of fun someone in power does not want to discourage with a tax or ‘minimum price.’ During the past month we have heard about the pasty tax, an increase in tax on fizzy drinks and this week has brought the minimum alcohol pricing announcement in Scotland. Campaigners and politicians state that consumers of ‘unhealthy’ products put an excessive burden on public services and cite astronomical figures as being the ‘cost to the taxpayer.’ This therefore justifies the additional taxation in order to reduce the overall consumption of the sinful product, and to reimburse the state for the extra money it is forced to spend. In terms of alcohol, we are hit with statistics of violence, drink-driving and property damage. But what about the average person who just likes a glass of wine after a hard day at work? The average family who like to go for a few drinks at the pub to celebrate someone’s birthday? The young couple who want their friends and family to hold up a glass of fizz and toast their marriage?
The cost of Britain’s booze culture.
Of course there are the few out there that spoil it for the rest of us. Alcohol is associated with a wide range of criminal offences in addition to drink driving and drunk and disorderly. In 2011 35% of all crime in the UK had alcohol as an aggravating factor. Yikes, these figures are quite shocking! Our already stretched boys (and girls) in blue must hate working Friday and Saturday nights dealing with all the problems that social drinking causes. We are all familiar with the catchy slogan “Booze Britain.” We can’t go a day without seeing a headline about binge drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption causes heart disease, liver failure and mental disease. This week Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, has claimed that in just one year the minimum price floor for alcohol would save 50 lives, there would be twelve hundred fewer hospital admissions and £5.5m would be saved.
A litre of cider or a Lt of water.... you decide
With figures like this it is hard to argue against the minimum price. How wrong is it that the cost of a litre of cider is cheaper than that of a litre of some premium mineral waters! Alcohol is just too cheap compared to the minimum wage. For working one hour earning minimum wage you can buy 2 2 Lt bottles of cider with a proof percentage of 7.6%. Happy days! No wonder the government is thinking of a minimum price when you can buy it so cheaply.
So who are these people who are stigmatising the British as boozed up hooligans?
Well the majority are young males aged between 18 – 30 years old. In 2011 out of all the suspects arrested for alcohol related crimes, 79% of them fell in the above age group with 67% being male. The young men in this category have the most disposable income as more often than not they are often unmarried and have no dependent children. They are the ones that frequent the designer pubs and clubs that charge much more for their alcohol anyway. The price of a unit of alcohol in exclusive bars and trendy clubs is often at least 25p more than the cost of one unit in a local pub. The minimum price will not affect the price on many premium drinks anyway so it is difficult to see how minimum pricing would change their behaviour.
Then there are also the binge drinkers to consider. Those, where a few drinks is just not enough and they need to get obliterated. Domestic violence is also linked inextricably to alcohol abuse, with 1 in 5 suspects being drunk at the time of the offence and 39% of offenders admitting that they had a problem with binge drinking. Of course I would like to see a reduction in this crime and reduce the number of people that have alcohol as an addiction. I do not believe that a price floor for alcohol will achieve this though. Heavier or problem drinkers will be the least affected simply because their desire or dependence will lead them to find cheaper ways of maintaining consumption. They will turn to cheaper brands which are often worse for health. For example, a person who drinks cans of lager may decide to buy cheaper bottles of liquor or cider instead. This was a common theme with the increase in tax on cigarettes, instead of people stopping, it increased smokers' propensity to smoke high-tar, high-nicotine cigarettes. There is also an argument that the minimum pricing could lead to criminality as people will buy cheaper alcohol from the black market. Bottles of alcohol will be smuggled in from abroad where no duty is paid at all.
So if the binge drinkers and hooligans will not be affected by the minimum price of alcohol, who will?
Me! People like me who like to relax with a glass of wine at the end of the day or have a few beers with friends. Minimum pricing is an indiscriminate tool that punishes responsible drinkers as much as it does the irresponsible. I will not change my drinking habits, I am a responsible drinker. It makes me angry that the government feel that they can control us by trying to price things out of our reach. For goodness sake we are adults and need to think for ourselves. I like to drink a bottle of Silver Rock Chardonnay that costs roughly £3.20. If the minimum price comes in I should expect to pay an extra £1.50. But don’t worry, if you like a nice glass of 12 year Glenfiddich single malt in the House of Commons bar, your prices will remain the same, just watch out for Eric Joyce; I hear he has a wicked left hook.
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