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News Commentary: Proposed Minimum Alcohol Prices

The UK’s “top medical adviser”, Sir Liam Donaldson, has drawn up plans for a minimum price for alcohol of 50pence per unit of alcohol they contain for the purpose of “tackling alcohol misuse” – although it isn’t clear from the BBC’s article how this figure was arrived at (it could be a figure Donaldson just “plucked out the air”).

So how does this affect Richy’s house hold? Well, there’s just the two of us and we like the occasional drink (maybe 2 or 3 a week): sometimes, we have a glass or two of wine at night with our evening meals, occasionally I’d have a “nightcap” of Whisky and very very very occasionally (like once every 6 months), I might have a very small amount of Absinthe. Katy quite likes Port and Sherry. So which items would go up in price – here’s the current contents of our drinks cupboard:

  • Glenfiddich 12 year Old Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV/70cl = 28 units. Sainsbury’s Price: £21.99. Proposed minimum price: £14.00
  • Thatcher’s Vintage Fine Somerset Cider: 7.4% ABV/75cl = 5.6 units. Tesco’s Price:£2.08. Proposed minimum price: £2.80: 72p increase
  • Sainsbury’s Sweet Rich Cream Sherry: 20%/75cl = 15 units. Sainsbury’s Price: £4.59. Proposed minimum price: £7.50: £2.91 increase
  • Port Dhubh Whisky 21 year old: 43%/70cl = 30 units. MRP: £50.00. Proposed minimum price: £15.00
  • Antonio Nadal Black Absinthe 80%: 80%/70cl = 56 units. Fine Spirit’s price: £22.97. Proposed minimum price: £28.00: £5.03 increase
  • Tesco Tawny Port: 19%/75cl = 14.3 units. Tesco’s price: £5.48. Proposed minimum price: £7.15: £1.67 increase
  • Sainsbury’s Sancerre: 12.5%/75cl = 9.38 units. Sainsbury’s Price: £10.49. Proposed minimum price: £4.69

(we do normally have a bottle of champagne in the house as well as that’s Katy’s preferred drink of choice, but we appear to have ran out).

As you can see, we’ll be looking at a £5.30 increase without the Absinthe (which, to be honest, I first of all doubt I’ll finish drinking before I’m 50 and secondly, I probably wouldn’t buy another bottle – it’s just too strong: it’ll be a total increase of £10.33 if we were to include it).

The more pricery drinks, since as the whisky and the Sancerre, seem to avoid the price increase: and those are the sort of drinks I would imagine members of the government quite liking (coincidence maybe?).

I can’t see having a minimum price would actually help avoiding alcohol misuse, as the “easy to drink”/”easy to abuse” stuff, such as Carlsberg Larger which Sainsbury’s are currently selling at £17.49 for 24 cans of 440ml: that’s 3.8%/1056cl=40 units would only go up to a minimum of £20 (a £2.51 increase) and “Alchopop” Bacardi Breezers wouldn’t actually change price from £3.78 for 4x275ml bottles: 4%/110cl= 4.4units as the minimum proposed would be £2.20.

How can we stop or reduce alcohol misuse? Education – encourage adults to teach their children that one glass of wine at a meal is ok (say, start when they are 8-12) and hence they should learn that it is nice in moderation: and they shouldn’t learn to abuse it. Also if they have alcohol “reasonably available” at home (regulated by the parents), then they won’t “sneak down the shop”, illegally buy bottles and drink it unsupervised. The government could also introduce labelling on alcohol such as “Do you think you are drinking too much? Do you feel somebody is abusing alcohol? Then call Drinkline free on 0800 917 82 82 or contact“: along with making it clearer how much alcohol is in a single bottle/can, what a “serving is” (i.e. a glass of wine, a shot of whisky) and how much alcohol is in a serving.