The sober truth on drinks pricing

One unit of alcohol is equivalent to half a pint of beer, a single measure of spirits, or just under a standard 125ml glass of wine
One unit of alcohol is equivalent to half a pint of beer, a single measure of spirits, or just under a standard 125ml glass of wine

EVERYBODY loves a deal, but is a bargain always a bargain?

Experts say that when it comes to super cheap alcohol, there’s a hidden cost and we’re all paying the price.

The Government, along with leading health bodies and top ranking police officers say a minimum unit price (MUP) is a key part of the solution.

Chris Cordner finds out what it is and why we need it.

AT face value, we’re getting a bargain. Alcohol is dirt cheap.

In the North-East, you can buy two litres of cider for less than £2 and some lagers are cheaper than bottled water.

The average British pocket money will buy enough alcohol to drink more than twice a man’s weekly recommended limit with change to spare.

But there’s a massive hidden cost and we’re all paying a heavy price, according to a campaign launched in October by the North-East alcohol awareness group Balance,

It aims to raise awareness of minimum unit price and encourage North-Easterners to back the measure.

The North-East’s alcohol problem is well documented. We have England’s highest rates of alcohol related deaths among men, alcohol related hospital admissions and under 18s in treatment.

Alcohol is linked to half of all crime and 40 per cent of domestic violence. It puts children and young people at risk and costs the region over £1bn a year or the equivalent of £887 for every taxpayer in the region.

Balance director Colin Shevills said: “It’s not really a bargain after all. Cheap alcohol is having a devastating impact on the North-East. It is ending lives, putting people in hospital, fuelling crime and threatening the future of our children and young people.

“We know that the more affordable alcohol is, the more people consume and the greater the troubles we face.”

In the North-East, a two litre bottle of cider, containing 15 units of alcohol (which is more than an adult female’s recommended weekly limit), is being sold for as little as £1.85.

Mr Shevills added: “It makes sense that if we are to tackle the problems caused by alcohol misuse, we need to reduce consumption by increasing alcohol price.” A minimum unit price will link the price of alcohol to its strength - the more units of alcohol, the higher the price.

Mr Shevills said: “This is a targeted measure and will help those who need it most by pricing the strongest alcohol such as strong white cider and supermarket own label vodka out of their hands. Importantly, it won’t have a big impact on moderate drinkers and won’t affect the price of a pint in a community pub.”

After 10 years, every year in England a minimum 50p per unit will:

l Save 3,393 lives;

l Reduce hospital admissions by 97,900;

l Cut crimes by 45,800;

l Cut unemployment by 27,100;

l Save 296,000 working days lost through absenteeism;

l Reduce the amount younger and heavier drinkers consume.

Campaigners say that setting the price lower than 50p will realise fewer benefits. Setting it higher will achieve more.

After 10 years, a minimum 40p per unit will annually save 1,381 lives; cut 16,000 crimes; reduce hospital admissions by 40,800; save 100,400 days lost to absenteeism and cut unemployment by 12,400.

After 10 years, a minimum 60p per unit will annually: save 5,875 lives; cut 88,400 crimes; reduce hospital admissions by 168,800; save 590,300 days lost to absenteeism and cut unemployment by 43,400.

The Government is committed to the measure. But, the price is yet to be set and it’s the subject of a consultation expected later this year. Support for Balance’s campaign will be used to inform this consultation.

Members of the Balance team will be in shopping centres and hospitals throughout the North-East the next two months to explain what a minimum unit price is and how it will benefit the North-East.

The team will be at Middleton Grange from November 19 to November 25.

People can find out more at

l MP writes: Page 35