Tyne & Wear

Newcastle University alcohol study rejects cost-price plan

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDr Jean Adams: "We're trying to reduce the risk of harmful drinking amoungst the people who are most likely to do so"

A ban on the sale of alcohol below cost price, due to be introduced in April, will have a "limited impact" on overall alcohol pricing, new research claims.

The Newcastle University study comes a week after Prime Minister David Cameron visited the city and pledged to tackle the "scandal" of alcohol abuse.

Researchers visited 29 city stores and found 2,000 promotions on offer - but only 2% were at below-cost price.

They recommend alcohol should be not be sold for less than 50p per unit.

From 6 April shops and bars will not be able to sell drinks for less than the tax paid on them. This figure works out as 38p for a can of weaker lager and £10.71 for a litre of vodka.

But the Newcastle University study, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, concluded the ban would not have a substantial effect on the overall price sold in shops, because hardly any alcohol is currently sold at such low prices.

Dr Jean Adams, who led the study, said: "The effect of price on alcohol consumption has been documented clearly: when the price of alcohol increases, consumption decreases; whereas when price decreases, consumption increases.

"Setting the minimum alcohol price at below cost price will not deter binge drinkers, as very little alcohol on sale will actually have to increase in price.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionResearchers found 2,000 alcohol promotions at 29 Newcastle stores

"Our results indicate that the current government proposal to ban sales of alcohol at below 'cost' price is likely to affect very few products and so would be unlikely to have a substantial effect on purchasing and consumption.

"In contrast, a minimum price of 50p per unit would impact on more than one quarter of the price discounts we identified."

The researchers also found many of the promotions required customers to buy large amounts of alcohol to claim the discount.

Alcohol consumption is the third biggest contributor to disease in developed countries and in the UK young people aged between 16 and 24 consume more than any other group.

Last week, during a visit to Newcastle, Mr Cameron said the level of drunkenness in the UK was a "scandal" and that supermarkets, bars and the drinks industry should do more to help the situation.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East alcohol office, said: "This research further demonstrates the real need for a minimum price per unit of alcohol if we are serious about tackling the problems caused by its misuse.

"Alcohol continues to be sold for pocket money prices across the North East, where we have the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions and male deaths in England."

The Portman Group, which represents drinks producers, said its members were "determined" to be effective partners with the government in tackling public drunkenness.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites