Pubs call for action on cheap supermarket alcohol

British publicans see cheap supermarket alcohol as the single greatest threat to their industry, and support government action to raise prices, according to a new Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) report.

Pubs Quizzed: What Publicans Think About Policy, Public Health and the Changing Trade collects the results of a national survey of pub managers, finding that a large majority (83%) believe supermarket alcohol is too cheap, with almost half (48%) citing competition from shops and supermarkets among their top three biggest concerns. Almost three-quarters (72%) of publicans believe the government should raise taxes on alcohol in supermarkets to tackle the problem.

These findings highlight divisions in the alcohol industry, with several major multinational producers actively opposing policies such as minimum unit pricing (MUP), which would increase the price of the cheapest products sold in shops and supermarkets. Legislation for MUP was passed by the Scottish Government in 2012, but implementation continues to be delayed as a result of a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association, which represents firms such as Diageo and Pernod Ricard. However, Pubs Quizzed finds ordinary publicans support the measure by a margin of 2 to 1, with 41% in favour and 22% against.

John Jolly,  Blenheim Chief Executive said:

“Supermarkets and off-licences are undercutting local pubs and encouraging harmful drinking. Blenheim agrees with the findings indicating that whether you want to support pubs or to reduce harmful drinking, the answer is the same: increase the price of the cheapest alcohol through tax or minimum unit pricing. It is a shameful dereliction of duty that the Government has failed to produce an alcohol strategy despite:

  • deaths from liver disease having reached record levels, rising by 20% in ten years
  • alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including: mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver; and depression
  • there were more than 1 million alcohol-related hospital admissions in the UK in 2012-13
  • alcohol is implicated in over half of all violent crimes, particularly violent crimes and domestic violence”
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