Price matters… and so does size

Mike Ward | February 2020 | 8 minutes

Alcohol Change UK consultant Mike Ward works on our Blue Light Project, supporting some of the UK’s most vulnerable drinkers; here he considers what a minimum price for alcohol could do for this group.

sarışın porno yaşlı porno konulu porno porno izle 69 porno rus porno anal porno bakire sex bangbros olgun porno

Minimum unit pricing (MUP) sets a baseline price for a unit of alcohol, below which it can’t be sold. That means that it increases the price of very cheap, strong alcohol, and this reduces the harm alcohol causes. A minimum unit price of 50p is already in place in Scotland, and on 2 March will be introduced in Wales.

Scotland has had a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol since 2018, and MUP will be coming into force in Wales on 2 March this year. It’s been a controversial measure, bogged down in the courts for five years; but from my 30 or so years of experience working with vulnerable drinkers, I have to say that extending MUP to the rest of the UK can only be a good thing. A number of justifications exist for this but, from my point of view, the main reason is that it will all but remove so-called ‘white cider’ from our shelves.

The main focus of my work for Alcohol Change UK is the Blue Light Project to improve the response to high-impact and change-resistant dependent drinkers – people whose drinking means they are often in contact with the NHS, social services and the emergency services. When I talk to people in this group, their main source of alcohol is low-cost, high-strength cider. As one client said to me, “When I get my benefits, I buy myself a bottle of brandy as a treat. The rest of the time I drink cheap cider.” The kind of cider they drink is often referred to as ‘white cider’ because of its pale colour. Some people claim it’s never seen an apple. That’s not true, but it is very, very cheap. I have recently seen bottles of white cider on sale in England for as little as 16½p per unit, compared with the minimum of 50p per unit mandated by law in Scotland. This is phenomenally cheap. By my calculations, it’s cheaper in real terms than gin was during the gin epidemic of the mid eighteenth century – immortalised in William Hogarth’s famous Gin Lane engraving.

I have recently seen bottles of white cider on sale in England for as little as 16½p per unit, compared with the minimum of 50p per unit mandated by law in Scotland.

And with our vulnerable Blue Light client group, price makes a big difference. The current pricing of white cider is allowing heavy-end drinkers to drink more units per day than might otherwise have been the case. As a result, they are becoming sicker and dying earlier. This is one reason the UK’s liver disease mortality statistics have continued to rise. In Scotland, MUP has essentially ended the sale of white cider, and it is to be hoped that this will have an impact on liver mortality north of the border.

However, it’s not just about the price itself. There is an aspect of the white cider problem that is often overlooked: the size of the containers. White cider often comes in big bottles, much bigger than you’d buy any other alcohol drink in. A three-litre bottle of white cider has 22½ units of alcohol in it. What the three-litre bottle size has done for some heavy-end drinkers is create a situation in which their consumption is going up in increments of 22½ units. Imagine someone going to a pub and drinking three pints. Then, in order to get another drink, they have to order another three pints. It would be a recipe for disaster. (In fact, if beer was sold in pubs 22½ units at a time, you’d have buy nine pints every time you went to the bar!)

What the three-litre bottle size has done for some heavy-end drinkers is create a situation in which their consumption is going up in increments of 22½ units. If beer was sold in pubs 22½ units at a time, you’d have buy nine pints every time you went to the bar!

Bottle size is an issue that has been discussed in relation to sugar consumption, and there seems to be some evidence that the available quantity has an impact on the amount consumed. We don’t yet have the same kind of evidence when it comes to alcohol, but my frontline experience leads me to believe that it’s an important factor. It’s been interesting to see one major white cider manufacturer introducing a new 500ml bottle, which may well be a response to MUP in Scotland. At just 85p a bottle in England (and £1.25 in Scotland), it’s easier to afford; but to get your 22½ units, you’d have to buy nine of them. That’s nine purchases and nine drinking decisions. Put another way, it’s nine pauses for thought – nine chances to decide you’ve had enough. If a side-effect of MUP is that it reduces bottle size in this way across a range of drinks, it may well bring even more health benefits than we expected.