CAN anyone tell me the point of imposing a minimum price on booze?
Ministers have suggested a minimum price of 45p a unit for the sale of alcohol in England and Wales as part of their drive to tackle problem drinking.
The 45p minimum would mean a can of strong lager could not be sold for less than £1.56 and a bottle of wine below £4.22.
Sheffield University research for the Government reckons a 45p minimum would reduce alcohol consumption by 4.3 per cent, leading to 2,000 fewer deaths and 66,000 hospital admissions after ten years.
Not only that, researchers suggested The number of crimes would drop by 24,000 a year as well.
On the face of it who could complain about such a marvellous boon to the nation?
But wait - problem drinking comes in different guises and I’m struggling to see how they justify their figures.
If you are the type of middle class person who drinks half a bottle of cab sav at home after a hard days work you are apparently at risk of alcohol related disease. But minimum pricing won’t affect you because you probably don’t balk at paying £5 a bottle.
Binge drinkers who get trollied on a weekend and shout and bawl and fight in the street at 2am don’t seem to care how much they spend judging by how much they are prepared to pay for a pint of cooking lager in the town centres these days anyway - £4 a pint anyone?.
Alcoholism is a nasty and pernicious condition which wrecks the lives of those suffering from it and their families. But alcoholics will make sure they get their fix no matter what a unit costs.
And if they are paying more they will transfer the cost from other parts of their lives, including their kids and partners.
They will simply pay the extra for their gut rot cider or ‘medicinal’ tonic wine of choice, or adopt ever-more nefarious means of obtaining it.
If alcohol is priced beyond reach surely we’ll see more crime, bootlegging and stories about illicit stills producing blindness-inducing industrial alcohol masquerading as vodka.
Explosions in out of town industrial estates will start appearing on the pages of your favourite newspaper at a much-increased rate.
And to reach that stage it will take more than a 45p per unit limit.
But the only stuff costing less than 45p a unit anyway is supermarket lager on special offer, the aforementioned cheapo cider and bargain-basement spirits.
At this stage the whole thing is meaningless except as usual it will result in a bigger tax grab for the exchequer and more profits for big brewers.
If the Government was really bothered about people drinking themselves into oblivion the best thing they could do is provide some jobs and give them some hope for the future.