Thursday, 12 August 2010

Minimum Pricing on Alcohol

The BBC reports today that dear old Dave is very sympathetic towards councils who want to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol at a local level.

The aim of minimum pricing is to discourage binge drinking, the theory being that if the people going out on a binge can't buy alcohol cheap enough, they'll stay sober.

There's just one problem with this plan - it's complete and utter bollocks.

 A good night out?

Binge drinking is a form of alcoholism. It is a deliberate form of substance misuse with the sole intention of getting 'high', or in this case, drunk. Therefore, the nature of it is addictive. Many people who engage in it will not have the inclination or the willpower to change their behaviour. And thus, with the motivational factor behind the purchase being the desire to get drunk, they will buy the alcohol regardless of how much it costs.

Minimum pricing on alcohol will do virtually nothing to prevent binge drinking, but it will punish the vast majority of drinkers who exercise control and responsibility. The solution is not to punish the responsible majority, but to break down the culture of binge drinking.

A few possible suggestions:
  • Change licensing laws to require licensees to refuse to serve people who are visibly intoxicated, and encourage others working in other services, e.g. taxis, takeaways etc. to do the same. Once people realise that getting hammered actually stops them from having a good time, they'll pack it in;
  • If someone turns up at a hospital requiring medical treatment arising from their own alcohol abuse, e.g. a stomach pump, bill them. They're wasting valuable resources that could be used elsewhere, and will act as a disincentive because they'll be having to hand over money without any tangible benefit;
  • Allow police reporting on which venues are more likely to produce binge drinking behaviour. These should be closely regulated to discourage marketing strategies which encourage binge drinking, such as 2-for-1 offers on alcopops, happy hours and selling shots at seats just before closing time.