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Scotland Plans Ban On Cheap Alcohol

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 Scotland Plans Ban On Cheap Alcohol

According to a Guardian report (02 03 09), plans are emerging to set a minimum tariff for alcohol. This is a direct attempt to stop drink being sold for what is considered to be pocket money prices in Scotland.

It has been established that cheap booze actively encourages bulk buying and this also will be targeted as with money saving promotions in supermarkets such as “three for two” deals.

‘Social Responsibility’ will be introduced, which will create legal powers for some retailers.

These new guidelines were revealed as the Scottish government published its blueprint in attempting to crack down on binge drinking in Scotland, particularly aimed at the young.

Both Nicola Sturgeon, health secretary and justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill launched the crackdown at Glasgow royal infirmary.

However the plans to raise the minimum age to 21 for purchasing alcohol have some what been diluted.

As an alternative, ministers are planning to put a legal obligation on ‘licensing boards to “consider” whether drink problems in their area warrant raising the age to 21. Local chief constables will also be able to request such a move.’

Furthermore another proposal has been abandoned, that of plans to introduce alcohol-only checkouts in supermarkets and shops. From that perspective all that possibly can be achieved with this proposal is stigmatisation.

Yet, from the governments point of view, they have faced opposition from the smaller retailers who claim they have neither the floor space or staff. To some extent there will be an understanding of some of the difficulties that are faced from all sides. The government says, “We have listened to these concerns and decided, for the time being, not to introduce alcohol-only checkouts.”

Nevertheless, the government has warned that if retailers do not co-operate, then they will take a different view point.

The Glasgow royal infirmary the site of the launch had been specifically chosen to highlight the cost of £2.25bn in relation to alcohol misuse.

With reference to Sturgeon who argues, “Plummeting prices and aggressive promotion have led to a surge in consumption, causing and adding to health problems ranging from liver and heart diseases to diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancers.

“We have listened to those who responded to the consultation and modified our proposals where appropriate.

“But we remain determined to press ahead with tough policies to tackle alcohol misuse.

“The time has come for serious action. It is no longer an option for anyone to simply talk about the problem of alcohol misuse but shy away from the action needed to tackle it.”

Hitherto, NHS statistics published only last week show the extent of the problem. There were 42,430 drink-related discharges from general hospitals in 2007-08.

It emerged last month that Scotland has the eighth-highest level of alcohol consumption in the world. There is no doubt as to the serious implications of this issue.

Indeed sales figures showed nearly 50 million litres of pure alcohol were drunk in 2007 - the equivalent of 11.8 litres for every person over the age of 16. That is the equivalent of everyone over 16 drinking 570 pints of normal strength beer, or 125 bottles of wine, or 42 bottles of vodka.

At the same time researchers found that almost 1,500 Scots are dying every year because of drink.

Nicola Sturgeon reveals the scale of the problem as “shocking”. But she insisted the measures put forward were “bolder than anything seen before in Scotland”.

Notably at this point, whilst ministers are set to introduce a minimum price per unit for alcohol, the level this will be set at has not yet been fixed.

Interestingly the university of Sheffield have indicated that a minimum price of 40p per unit caused overall consumption to fall by 2.6%, with larger decreases among young drinkers and harmful drinkers.

Thus the Scottish government has now commissioned similar Scotland-specific data.

The chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns states that alcohol had become a “major health, economic and social challenge for our people, a problem which is damaging families and communities across the country”.

In addition he argue, “We have a responsibility to do all we can to tackle it. In Scotland, we led the way on smoking and we can lead the way on alcohol misuse too.”

In contrast however, the Portman group ‘, the dedicated social responsibility body for UK drinks producers, hit out at the Scottish government’s plans to tackle alcohol misuse.’

David Poley, chief executive said: “The Scottish government is not listening to reason. These plans will punish all drinkers while only scratching at the surface of our drinking culture.

“People who drink to get drunk would not be influenced by these measures. We should be targeting the harmful drinking minority through better education and effective law enforcement. Many people will make healthier choices if they receive accurate information and support.”

It has also been established that the Scottish Retail Consortium, have also been critical. Although both doctors and police have backed the proposals.
the chief executive of campaign group Alcohol Focus Scotland, Jack Law says, “the Scottish government is leading the way in the world and taking seriously the need to address our harmful drinking culture”.

He added: “Regulating the price and availability of alcohol are the measures most effective in reducing alcohol consumption and related harm to individuals, families and society.”

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