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Backlash on Cheap Alcohol

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 Backlash on Cheap Alcohol

A Pub chain has been accused of acting irresponsibly for charging just 99p per pint. The aim of the reduction is to cheer “cash-strapped” drinkers, but has generated much criticism from health groups such as Alcohol Concern.

The BBC report (04 01 09) claims JD Wetherspoon, which operates 713 pubs across the UK, is offering “indefinite” reductions on some beer, bottled lager, wine and spirits, plus £2.99 meals.

Moreover, Alcohol Concern argues that drinks are already 65% lower in real terms than in 1980. More specifically, health campaigners are concerned other pub chains will follow.

Reality is that pubs are closing down at a rate of nearly four a day as a consequence of poor sales and the smoking ban according to the organisation which represents the industry.

However, it is essential to recognise the statistics related to ill-health and the consumption of alcohol. As indicated by Nicolay Sorensen of Alcohol Concern who argues “The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions is continuing to rise at an astonishing rate,” he said, adding that treating drink-related illnesses costs the NHS £2.7bn per year.

He said that by selling beer at 99p per pint, pubs were not acting responsibly. in addition he says “The drinks industry isn’t able to regulate itself responsibly and it’s for the government to take action.”

In contrast, the British Beer and Pub Association’s (BBAPA) representative Mark Hastings adamantly states “the 99p pint only applied to one brand of beer - Greene King IPA - in one chain of bars.

Customers could stay at home and drink beer from supermarkets much more cheaply, whereas pubs offered a more responsible environment, he said.

“We are trying to stay in business, keep jobs in our sector and compete in a very competitive market,”

The impact of job losses according to Mr Hastings is that figures speak for themselves. There has been a total loss of 44,000 jobs thus far.

Company chief executive John Hutson said the company was helping people in the face of the economic downturn.

“We believe that our new food and drink prices will allow people to enjoy a visit to a Wetherspoon pub without it costing them too much,” he added.

Finally and worthy of discussion, a BBC article written (04 12 08) suggests cheap booze bans will simply not work unless supermarkets are urged to stop selling at below cost price.

The implications are serious in that the alcohol industry is struggling to stay alive, whilst supermarkets are selling alcohol so cheaply and is most probably the main cause in alcohol-related disease.

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