UK Government goes through with below cost ban, despite criticism on effectivenessThe UK government has announced plans to ban the sale of alcohol at below cost (duty plus VAT) in England and Wales. The new regulation goes into effect next April, despite concerns from health experts that this new policy is relatively ineffective.

As was shown by the University of Sheffield last summer, the ban on below cost retailing is considerably less effective than a 45 pence minimum pricing policy. According to the researchers calculated that the current plans lead to a reduction of approximately 15 alcohol related deaths per year, 500 hospital admissions and 900 alcohol related crimes; this compared to a reduction of 625 alcohol related deaths per year, 23.700 hospital admissions and 34.200 crimes when minimum unit pricing would be introduced.

The Government received much criticism last summer when it rejected a minimum unit price for alcohol and a ban on multi-buy promotions. Accordingly, ministers got accused of buckling to pressure from the drinks industry. Recently, this stance was substantiated in a series of editorials in the medical journal BMJ.

The Alcohol Health Alliance, which includes the medical royal colleges, said the impact of the ban on selling at below duty plus VAT would be negligible. And indeed, the Home Office impact assessment suggests the move is only likely to hit 1.3% of all alcohol sales.

However, ministers insist below-cost selling is a real issue, with six out of seven major supermarkets found to be selling alcohol at up to 12% below cost in 2008.

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern: “The idea that banning below-cost sales will help tackle our problem with alcohol is laughable, it’s confusing and close to impossible to implement. On top of this, reports show it would have an impact on just 1% of alcohol products sold in shops and supermarkets leaving untouched most of those drinks that are so blatantly targeted at young people. (…) The government is wasting time when international evidence shows that minimum unit pricing is what we need to save lives and cut crime.”

Source: 02/04/14

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