Minimum Pricing for Alcohol in the UK

Not surprisingly, the wine industry has been outspoken in its opposition to the recent proposal by the UK’s National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE), which calls for minimum pricing regulations on alcohol as a way to combat problem drinking.

In fact, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) promptly dismissed the idea of minimum pricing for alcohol as “misguided,” and even hinted that it could potentially be illegal. According to some estimates, the proposal would cause even the cheapest wines to experience a price increase based on alcohol level that would raise the cost from anywhere between £4 to £6 per bottle.

NICE wants to use the measure in conjunction with a number of other restrictions to reduce alcohol-related deaths in the UK, but in addition to questioning its legality, the WSTA argues that it won’t stop determined drinkers. In fact, minimum pricing could instead increase the burden on the wine industry and everyone who drinks wine, while failing to address the ever-present issue of problem drinking. In fact, evidence shows that individuals with a drinking problem will often go to almost any length to get alcohol.

Instead of minimum pricing for alcohol, the WSTA has been supportive of efforts to carry out intensive early education about the dangers of alcohol abuse. When people fully understand the risks, they are often less likely to overindulge in any substance, including alcohol. In addition, many opponents of the minimum pricing measure have pointed out that prohibition has never worked – just look at American history during the 1930s! Other measures, including education and perhaps even a ban on loss-leading promotions, could potentially be much more effective in combating alcohol abuse than monetary penalties.


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