Striking the Right Balance

For all the business debate that categories like food to go, and fresh and chilled (rightly) attract in our sector, the pre-occupations of politicians when it comes to local shops remain those categories that have the most direct impacts on the health of the people and communities we serve.  That's why, for as long as I can remember, politicians have looked for new ways to regulate tobacco and alcohol, and more recently sugar and other foods.

Some of my friends in the industry argue that government shouldn't concern itself with these products and the retailers who sell them.  I actually don't agree.  We should expect governments to think about regulatory interventions to limit the harm caused by these very different substances, and setting aside the jobs we do and shops we run, don't we as citizens expect our leaders to think about how to reduce this harm and extend the length and health of our lives? To me, the question is about what regulation works, is properly targeted, is proportionate to the specific problems at hand, and implements meaningful incentives on businesses and individuals to change their behaviour.

I was pleased to see that the UK Government has concluded that some measures they've recently considered aren't actually warranted at this time.  Specifically I'm talking about the proposals to restrict in-store siting and promotions of alcohol, and to introduce a licensing system for tobacco, both of which have been priorities for ACS in our lobbying work. You can read our submissions on alcohol here and tobacco licensing here.

The promotional restrictions on alcoholic drinks are already in place in Scotland, meaning retailers can't advertise their alcohol offer immediately outside their store, have to position it one place in the store, and can't run multi buy discounts.  The impact of these measures has been limited, because they don't target problem drinkers who just trade down to cheaper brands and who know full well where alcohol is available.  So I'm pleased that the Home Office isn't going down this route in England, allowing retailers to offer and promote good deals to customers, including putting alcohol with other products in different parts of the store. You can read the Home Office's response to recommendations to introduce promotional restrictions on alcohol here.

HMRC's decision not to introduce licensing for tobacco retailers is also welcome.  We know that the alcohol licensing system brings costs and bureaucracy for retailers, and there are already measures in place to stop retailers who sell illicit product, or who serve underage customers, from selling tobacco.  A licensing system wouldn't have achieved anything for society or public health, it would just have brought more regulatory costs for local shops.

The ongoing debate about how to balance the regulation of the products we sell will continue to be high on our agenda as ACS, and these two decisions are important achievements.

This entry was posted by Chloe on Thu, 16/11/2017 - 10:05