24 Mar 2012

UK plans price hike to combat binge drinking

6:21 am on 24 March 2012

The British government has announced plans for a minimum price for alcoholic drinks in England and Wales in an effort to deter problem drinking.

Ministers are suggesting the lowest price for a unit of alcohol should be about 40 pence.

About a fifth of alcohol sold in England and Wales would be affected by the change.

Home Secretary Theresa May says the change is is not aimed at responsible drinkers, but is needed to discourage binge drinking.

"There are too many town centres around our country where sadly, particularly on a Friday or a Saturday night, the scenes in them of drunken mayhem are ones which mean that an awful lot of people just don't go into those town centres," she told the BBC.

"People who like a drink or two, who like going down their local pub, have nothing to fear from this policy."

The drinks industry argues the plan is seriously misguided.

A spokesperson for Britain's Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Gavin Partington, says international evidence supports the view that the price increase won't solve the problem.

The BBC reports that while most prices would be unaffected, it could significantly alter the price of heavily-discounted ciders, super-strength lager and cheap spirits.

Cheap, strong lager at 75 pence a can would become at least £1.20. A bottle of red wine containing 9.4 units of alcohol would rise in cost from £2.99 to £3.76.