There are a lot of interesting things going on here in the UK in terms of alcohol and its regulations. Today I’ll briefly introduce some of them.
Since a few years back, the UK Government has publicly said on several occasions that it aims to introduce a Minimum Price on alcohol, consisting of Duty and VAT (Value-added tax). This has been discussed in response to shops and supermarkets lowering their prices to attract customers as well as due to concerns raised by children’s charities and public health advocacy groups.
This summer, however, such initiatives were put on hold, not to be introduced earlier than spring 2014. Scotland, on the other hand, passed a law regarding such minimum price on alcohol units already in 2012, following studies of the relationship between price and alcohol harm. As a devolved political issue, Scotland poses its own laws in these areas. Ireland has looked upon the actions taken by Scotland, and aims to introduce something similar, in addition to targeting the advertising of alcohol.
Minimum Price on units of alcohol is not yet introduced, following opposition from Big Alcohol as well as the European Union (rallied by lobbyism of the global alcohol industry) . According to BBC estimates, the price increase on some products would be quite large; that is, the government is not talking about some tiny inflation-adjusted measure, but a heavy increase in prices of cheap alcohol. However, a ban on selling alcohol in shops after 22.00 on evenings is already in effect, causing quite a turmoil among the student population. Many students, especially from abroad or coming up from England, are simply astonished that such a limit on alcohol exists and a rush to the shops before 22 o’clock is far from uncommon. It is somewhat nonsensical, when Glasgow and larger UK cities have pubs and easy access to alcohol essentially everywhere.
To limit the effects of binge alcohol use, the City of Newcastle has passed levies on stores and pubs selling alcohol after midnight within the city centre, taking a lead on restricting alcohol in England. It also involved limiting the space where supermarkets could display alcohol. The revenue raised will be split between council and police to assure public safety, tackling issues of health and disorder. Representatives of the City council urged the UK government to continue with its nation-wide minimum price.
There are large concerns regarding the consumption of alcohol, especially binge alcohol use, within the UK. Binge alcohol use alone sends a whopping £21 billion bill to the UK taxpayers, official numbers report. However, the same UK minister who is now pushing the minimum price limits, has come out in favour of cannabis. He has ordered a government report due before Christmas that is expected to voice the governments’ position on drug policy. Also, there’s a potential political conflict in such a statement, while the issue disrupt the governing Coalition among party lines.
The UK is undergoing a lot of change in terms of political approaches to the consumption of alcohol. The future promises some surprises, I daresay. Stay tuned!