Minimum Pricing

I’m always pleased when ACS gets a mention in a new report, as it usually means some of our research is getting quoted or the author is thinking about local shops which is a good thing. Last week’s British Medical Journal report “Under the Influence” names ACS as an organization engaged in trying to change Government’s minimum unit pricing policy. There are a number of extraordinary issues that emerge from this report.

Firstly, ACS has always taken a fairly neutral position on minimum unit pricing. We don’t think it’s the most effective way of tackling alcohol harm, but it wouldn’t cause significant direct damage to our members, so the suggestion that we went to see Sajid Javid, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to lobby against minimum unit pricing is odd, and could have been rejected with the smallest amount of research.

Secondly, our meeting with Sajid Javid wasn’t about minimum unit pricing, it was about alcohol duty fraud. The officials accompanying the Minister were from HMRC and the excise team at HM Treasury. Alcohol duty fraud has significant consequences for our members and we are determined to tackle it. As a result of a concerted campaign led by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, and backed by ACS, we are now finally seeing action on duty fraud, and meeting Sajid Javid was part of our work to explain the impact of this activity on our sector.

Thirdly, given the scale of duty fraud, and its tendency to target the poorest areas with cheap alcohol, why do we not see public health campaigns against it? Among all the column inches, all the time selling is radio interviews, and all the academic papers, there is never one on the black market in alcohol and its devastating impact on business, communities and public health? I think there is one benign answer to that question: it’s easier and more fun to target the alcohol industry. But there’s also a far more concerning reason: acknowledging the black market collapses the foundation of public health arguments that are all based on addressing the legal trade; saying that the black market fundamentally undermines public health objectives adds a fatal complexity to arguments for regulation.

And finally, when will the Government finally legislate to stop weak alcohol-related puns in articles like this? “Under the Influence” and indeed any use of the words “call” and “time” has become a particularly grating part of the alcohol debate, and this needs to stop.

This entry was posted by Victoria on Mon, 13/01/2014 - 14:32