What is Minimum Unit Pricing for a unit of Alcohol?
The Big Alcohol Conversation is working to reduce the harms caused by alcohol in Greater Manchester. We’re asking residents to give us their views on how we can best do this by taking our short survey at the bottom of this page.
A potential option is to make high strength, cheap alcohol less readily available. Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) is one way of achieving this.
Minimum Unit Pricing refers to the setting of a minimum price at which a unit of alcohol can be sold legally – nothing can be sold below that price. This already happens in Scotland, and will be the case in Wales from later this year too.
There are many differing opinions on the matter. Here are a few of the key points.
What effect could it have?
Analysis by the University of Sheffield concluded that Minimum Unit Pricing has consistently been found to be an effective and well-targeted approach to reducing alcohol-related harm.
Drawing on research in The Lancet medical journal, these academics found that MUP could reduce consumption both overall and – by a significantly larger amount – amongst harmful drinkers. They concluded that, nationally, MUP could lead to over 34,000 fewer crimes in a year, and over 600 fewer deaths and 23,000 hospital admissions within a decade.
Further University of Sheffield research found that moderate drinkers would see very little impact on their spending because they typically buy very little alcohol which is sold below the typical Minimum Unit Price of 50p. In contrast, harmful drinkers buy large quantities of alcohol each week for less than 50p per unit.
Would I pay more for my drink?
A minimum unit price of 50p, as in Scotland and Wales, would affect strong drinks sold at cheap prices.
The lowest price you could pay would be:
Large shot of spirits (35ml, 40%) = 70p
Can of strong lager (440ml, 5.2%) = £1.15
Pint of ale (568ml, 3.8%) = £1.10
Bottle of cider (568ml, 4.5%) = £1.30
Bottle of wine (750ml, 13.5%) = £5.00
Bottle of strong cider (2 litres, 7.5%) = £7.50
Many drinks are already being sold by our shops, pubs and clubs for the same or greater cost than a minimum unit price of 50p.
What are the drawbacks?
The University of Sheffield studies did conclude that Minimum Unit Pricing has a higher impact on low income drinkers than on those with higher incomes.
The Campaign for Real Ale has also argued that MUP penalises moderate and responsible drinkers while doing little to support those who have issues with alcohol abuse.
Some drinks producers, such as the Scotch Whisky Association, have criticised Minimum Unit Pricing as a ‘blunt instrument’ completely.
What are the alternatives?
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has argued that reform of alcohol taxes could be a more effective way of making cheap, high strength alcohol less readily available. They argue it could do more to reduce the alcohol consumption of heavy drinkers, and bring additional revenue to the Government – rather than retailers or alcohol producers who could potentially benefit from any price increases under Minimum Unit Pricing.
The University of Sheffield, however, highlights how increases in alcohol taxes are not always passed onto consumers through corresponding price rises; in the past, UK supermarkets have sometimes increased the price of cheaper products by less, and expensive products by more, than would be expected given tax changes.
Without requiring any legislation, an award-winning scheme in Suffolk has seen local police and councils encourage shops to voluntarily stop selling inexpensive high-strength beers and ciders. The ‘Reducing the Strength’ campaign saw a decrease in crimes and anti-social behaviour linked to street drinking, and was subsequently rolled out in other areas of the country.
What does Greater Manchester think?
To mark the start of the Big Alcohol Conversation, ITV explored the issue of Minimum Unit Pricing in the north west. Watch the news story here, featuring Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership chief officer Jon Rouse.
And you’re invited to have your say on Minimum Unit Pricing and other ways of tackling alcohol harm in Greater Manchester. Give your thoughts harm in the comments section and the Big Alcohol Conversation survey below.