UK: Poll dampens case for minimum price on alcohol

By | 23 December 2009

  • One in five adults would drink the same amount, says survey
  • WHO set to endorse minimum pricing

New consumer research suggests a minimum price on alcohol may do little to curb drinking in the UK, as the industry gears up to face renewed pressure on drinks pricing in 2010.

Only a fifth of adults in the UK would buy less alcohol if prices in supermarkets are "significantly increased", according to YouGov survey figures published by the Wilson Drinks Report this week.

"We are yet to be persuaded that minimum pricing would actually work as intended," said Tim Wilson, author of the report and an ex-director at consultancy group Deloitte.

Drinks firms in the UK and beyond are facing a tough ride on pricing in 2010.

In January, an influential committee of UK politicians is set to recommend a minimum price of GBP0.5 per unit of alcohol, as well as a raft of other measures to reduce harmful drinking. These are set include further restrictions on marketing of drinks.

The proposals will not be legally binding, but will thrust the issue of excess drinking back into the spotlight as the UK prepares for a General Election - to be held in the first half of the year.

On a global level, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will in January unveil a final draft of guidance for curbing harmful drinking.

An initial draft, published earlier this month, suggests that the body is strongly in favour of pricing measures.

"Increasing the price of alcoholic beverages is one of the most effective interventions to reduce harmful use of alcohol," says the draft, seen by just-drinks.

Minimum pricing is one of nine policy options on pricing offered to Governments in the draft. Others include tax and banning promotions. The document also suggests that duty free could be outlawed.

WHO member countries are expected to adopt final proposals on reducing alcohol-related harm at the organisation's plenary session in May 2010.

Drinks industry leaders have said that they are concerned that "extremists" are seeking to hijack the debate and exclude drinks firms from discussions.

Sectors: Beer & cider, Spirits, Wine

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