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Take a leaf out of CAMRA’s book if you want to tackle binge-drinking – act “LocAle”

Andy Glazier

A recent study by mruk finds widespread antipathy towards minimum pricing across the UK.  But it also showed big regional differences in what needs to be done to reduce the UK’s binge-drinking tsunami

As much as the occasional West Midlander may claim to be “considerably richer than yow”, the last thing they want is the price of their liquor hiked up! In fact twice as many Black Country adults would ask the Genie of the Lamp to introduce a ‘Sexual Well-being course and exam for children aged 15’ as would request a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol (almost 1 in 2, compared to 1 in 5).

Of course this minimum pricing issue is a tricky one.  It may not be saying much, but the current Government has performed more u-turns on this issue than the queue for the Gents loo at a beer festival.  Far more tellingly, CAMRA – the largest single-issue consumer campaigning body in the UK, with 153,799 members as at 16/9/13 – can’t seem to make up its mind either, moving from supporters of the idea to staunch enemies.
BeerOne CAMRA Good Beer Guide pub licensee chose to disagree when he spoke with us, commenting  “it would surely help level the playing field for pubs, especially independent ones, versus the supermarkets; we simply cannot loss-lead on alcohol in the way they do – it’s all I sell in my pub!”

And then of course there’s what’s happening in Scotland. The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act was passed in May 2012, but has yet to see the light of day, and it’s unlikely it will this side of Hogmanay (choose your own year).

This brings us back to our varied health priorities across the UK.  Scotland at least tried to nail its colours to the mast, even if the Saltire remains firmly unfurled.  Just across the border, into the North East of England, we actually see a minimum price per unit in the top 3 for more adults (2 in 5) than anywhere else in the UK!  Is this just the ‘localness’ of the debate that’s raged in Scotland for years inflating this artificially, or more likely, are we seeing yet another crucial health related issue that needs to be tackled at a local level?  Without this local understanding, not only do we run the risk of hitting people in the wallet rather than the liver, we’ll also be condemning even more pubs to closure than the current 25 every week.

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