Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Why minimum pricing of alcohol makes no difference to binge drinking bar goers...

Just a quick one here, for future reference.

First of all, as the proposals currently stand, minimum pricing is set to 50p per unit in Scotland, and maybe 45p in the rest of UK/England. This equates to between £1 and £1.50 for a normal pint in a pub, £1.50 for an "alcopop", 50p for a small glass of wine, and £1 for a double spirit mixer.

Those who have been out any time in the last decade will understand how these prices are "dream prices" for the wallet, and well below the real cost of buying a drink in the UK.

Take the real cost of a pint, easily over £3 in the city, or a spirit and mixer, usually around £2.50. With drinks promotions frowned upon when it comes to licensing arrangements, choosing to go out is one that means you know that you're going to spend a certain amount of money.

And this is why minimum alcohol pricing doesn't matter. A bottle of vodka, even with minimum pricing, will cost around £14 if you're going for a bargain. This will, if you are intending to get absolutely drunk of a night out, provide you with the equivalent of 28 vodka mixers for around 23% of the price of doing it out in the bars.

If you have a budget of £10 for drinks, you might say you'll spend £5 out (two drinks) and spend enough time inside to share the bottle with 2 other people. 11 drinks of a night for £10.

What if minimum pricing went up? To maybe 60p? That bottle of Vodka would go up to ~£17. You still have £10 to spend individually, so what's the answer? Simple really, you know a drink will be £2.50 out, so you can get one before you dance, which means you can have more of that bottle of vodka (you'd buy more than one bottle this time, which in itself is a problem) and your total night drinks would be 11-12 drinks before you go out, and then another when you're at the bar/club.

you spend the same, you drink *more*, you still end up going out, the only difference is you go out for less time to mitigate the issue of expense. You know you have to spend more on pre-drinking, but it's still significantly cheaper than the bars, so you just spend more time on the pre-drinks in your home.

Of course as the minimum price goes up, the situation changes. 75p per unit pricing would mean that you would probably, if you wanted to go out and buy a drink out, only get 10 drinks in total... at £1 per unit you're really eating in to that margin, the Vodka would be £28 per bottle, you'd maybe only manage 8 drinks for your £10 that evening...and so on.

As it stands, if anything, the law is potentially going to fuel worse binge drinking...I believe the economics of current levels just stack up to creating enough of a squeeze on how expensive it all is to push people to drink the cheaper booze at home more.