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How the pricing and promotion of alcohol encourage young people to drink

1. Pocket Money Pricing
“It should be physically impossible to buy enough alcohol to die at 10am for £10.”
Dr Bob Winter, National Clinical
Director for Emergency Preparedness and Critical Care

Children are particularly sensitive to the pricing of alcohol. Evidence shows that the higher the cost of alcohol, the less children drink. Higher alcohol prices can also delay the age at which children start to drink.

Yet price promotion is one of the tactics used by big alcohol producers to sell vast oceans of drink. As a result total alcohol consumption per head increased 38% between 1992 and 2011 – in 2013 36% of 15-year-olds reported drinking more than 10 units per week.

A quick stroll around your local supermarket will show you the sheer quantity of cheap booze on offer – a can of lager is cheaper than a bottle of water. The average weekly pocket money will buy a child enough alcohol to drink four times more than the NHS adult limits.

“Twenty years ago kids would take cider to the park and share it with six others. Now they take vodka because it’s so cheap and easy to access.”
Katherine Brown, Director, Institute of Alcohol Studies

“I have treated young people who are drinking up to a bottle of vodka a day. Cheap alcohol and children is a particularly dangerous combination.”
Dr Steve Hood, Liver Specialist, Aintree University Hospital FT

Cheap alcohol
  • Alcohol is 61% cheaper now than in 1980
  • 70% of alcohol is bought in supermarkets where it is often discounted
  • Alcohol can be found so cheap that the daily guideline limit can be exceeded for about £1
  • A minimum unit price for alcohol of 50p would target and stop many young people drinking
  • Bottled water is now more expensive than alcohol in supermarkets

Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol
Research into the benefits of minimum unit pricing in Canada demonstrates that it has saved lives and cut crime. Investigations by a team at the University of Sheffield found that the introduction of a minimum unit price in England of 50p would target the heaviest and youngest drinkers; reduce alcohol consumption by 2.5%; save the economy £5.1 billion; reduce hospital admissions by 35,000; cut 50,000 crimes; and save almost 1,000 lives. However, because minimum unit pricing links the price of alcohol to its strength, it would not punish the majority of responsible drinkers who tend not to drink super cheap, super strong alcohol, nor would it push up a pint in the pub.

Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol