Alcohol lead ‘unconvinced’ minimum pricing will work

New ‘minimum pricing’ laws for alcohol could push genuine addicts towards crime or drug use, according to a national lead on the subject.

Nov 15, 2017

New ‘minimum pricing’ laws for alcohol could push genuine addicts towards crime or drug use, according to a national lead on the subject. Scotland will likely become the first country to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol after a long-delayed Bill was backed by the Supreme Court. The law is intended to reduce alcohol-related harm and an “unacceptably high” death toll by raising the cost of the strongest, cheapest drinks on offer. Similar legislation is being considered in Wales and Northern Ireland and the Home Office has insisted a potential national policy on minimum pricing is still under review. However, Hardyal Dhindsa, lead on drug and alcohol misuse for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, claimed that increasing prices alone will not be enough to help addicts – and may encourage some to steal to fund their habit. He told Police Professional: “I want to look to see what the impact will be. The aim I can’t fault, because the aim is to reduce the ability of people to easily access alcohol and cause problems for themselves, society and the criminal justice and health systems. “I hope that aspiration is achieved but I am yet to be convinced about whether it will be. “From my experience of 30 years working in the probation service dealing with offenders, people who have got problems with addiction will find ways of either illegally obtaining alcohol or maybe turn to other things which provide the same buzz. “People who have got an addiction usually have a large number of other problems… and if those social issues are not tackled, one particular type of intervention would not have the impact we all want it to have.” The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act was first proposed in 2012 but was delayed by legal challenges from the drinks industry. The Scotch Whisky Association claimed the Bill would restrict trade and appealed against it. However, Supreme Court judges ruled that it does not breach European law and will prove more effective than adding an excise duty to alcohol. A national minimum pricing law was proposed by then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012 but the plans were put on hold following opposition from alcohol manufacturers. The Home Office has since said that the legislation is still being considered. The exact minimum price of alcohol in Scotland has still not been confirmed but will likely be set at 50p per unit. This would increase the lowest possible cost of a 70cl bottle of vodka to £13.13, and of four cans of lager to £3.52. The price of alcohol sold in bars and nightclubs is unlikely to change as they already often charge more than this rate. The number of alcohol-related deaths in Scotland rose ten per cent in 2015/16 to 1,265. On average, alcohol misuse leads to 24 deaths a week in the country – and costs Scotland’s economy £3.6 billion each year. The cost to England and Wales is £21 billion per year, more than half of which is due to alcohol-related crime. Research by Alcohol Focus Scotland suggests the maximum recommended weekly intake of alcohol could be purchased for just £2.52, or 18 pence per unit. Sheffield University also estimates that raising the price to 50p per unit would lead to 121 fewer annual deaths and 2,000 fewer hospital admissions after 20 years. Health Secretary Shona Robinson said: “This has been a long journey and in the five years since the Act was passed, alcohol related deaths in Scotland have increased. With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high. “Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.” Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Minimum unit pricing is effective because it targets the kind of drinking most likely to lead to the greatest harm. “The price of a pint in the pub won’t change but the price of strong whi

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