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Wine and Spirit Trade Association warns Government minimum unit pricing will punish responsible drinkers


The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has warned Government plans to force up alcohol prices would punish responsible drinkers and do nothing to tackle binge-drinking.


In its submission to the Home Office consultation on minimum unit pricing (MUP) the WSTA said there was no evidence the plan would reduce alcohol-related harm and urged the Government to look at more effective measures.

The Home Office consultation on plans to set a minimum unit price for alcohol closed on Wednesday.

The WSTA represents over 340 companies producing, importing, transporting and selling wines and spirits. It has launched a campaign against minimum unit pricing at http://www.whyshouldwepaymore.co.uk.

In its submission the WSTA warned:

There is no evidence MUP will reduce alcohol-related harm

MUP has never been attempted anywhere else in the world. The Canada experience is not comparable as it has a state monopoly on the sale of alcohol and a floor not a minimum unit price. In the UK evidence used to support the plan is simply a projection based on modelling that is now four years out of date.

There is not a simple link between alcohol price and harm

In Europe, those countries with the highest alcohol prices are those where incidence of alcohol misuse is considered a problem. Ireland and Sweden both have high alcohol prices, but are perceived to have some of the highest levels of harm. This shows consumption is more likely to be related to cultural factors and that the increase in price does not impact on these significantly. 

In a soon to be published report, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) states the fact that neither alcohol-attributable deaths, hospital admissions nor crime have moved in the manner expected in response to the overall reduction in alcohol consumption casts serious doubts over the capability of the Sheffield model to properly predict the relationship between alcohol-related harms and alcohol consumption.

MUP fails to target irresponsible drinkers or harmful drinking

Heavy drinkers are the least responsive to price changes, according to the modelling used by the Government.

Impact on responsible consumers

MUP set at 45p would increase the price of 52% of the alcohol products sold in the off-trade. At 50p the proportion rises to 64%. This means responsible drinkers will have to pay more for a policy designed to tackle problem drinking by an irresponsible minority.

Disproportionate impact on those with low incomes

Analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that on average a MUP of 40p will be felt by the poorest 30% of drinkers only. This is despite the fact that low earners on average drink less (General Lifestyle Survey Overview, Office of National Statistics 2010).

The WSTA also warned MUP would lead to an increase in illegal activity including counterfeit products, “white van trade” and theft from stores.

It also said it would increase red tape on businesses who would have to implement complex and costly new systems to deal with regulations as well as huge costs for enforcement agencies to implement the policy.

The WSTA said the Government should focus on policies that had already proved effective such as education, better enforcement of existing regulations and locally-targeted solutions such as Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAPs). In Barnsley the CAP scheme reduced alcohol-related anti-social behaviour by 30 per cent and in Durham by 37 per cent.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said:

“The industry is committed to tackling problem drinking and its consequences, but this policy will not do that.

“Minimum unit pricing will impact on the majority of responsible consumers while doing nothing to tackle alcohol-related harms. It is a significant and unjustified intervention that will cost all consumers and businesses to introduce, with no impact on the behaviour of the irresponsible few."

 

Ends

The WSTA is the UK lobbying organisation for the wine and spirit industry representing over 340 companies producing, importing, transporting and selling wines and spirits.

We campaign to promote the industry’s interests with governments at home and abroad.

We work with our members to promote the responsible production, marketing and sale of alcohol.

 

For more information please contact Aileen Keyes:

Tel:       +44 (0) 20 7089 3881

Mob:    +44 (0) 7504 498 656

Email:   [email protected]

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