Low-alcohol beer sales spike after drink-drive law

Changes to the drink-drive limit in Scotland has pushed up demand for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Changes to the drink-drive limit in Scotland has pushed up demand for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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SALES of low-alcohol beer have rocketed in Scotland since the introduction of the lower drink drive limit, retailers have claimed.

Figures show a huge surge in demand for products since the new laws came into force in December, meaning the average man can have just a pint of normal-strength beer before driving and woman only half a pint.

Supermarket Tesco said sales of low-alcohol products had increased by 80 per cent since the law came into force, while independent stockists agreed there had been high demand.

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Bars have also witnessed a higher demand for low-alcohol products, as well as smaller measures such as 125ml glasses of wine, the trade body for Scottish pubs said.

The new rules lowered the alcohol limit for drivers from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood, bringing Scotland into line with many other countries in Europe. The limit remains higher – at 80mg – in England and Wales.

Peter Sherry, owner of The Beerhive shop in Edinburgh, which stocks 200 different kinds of beer, said he had noticed far higher demand for low-alcohol products.

“We have always stocked a certain number of beers which are under four per cent alcohol,” he said. “We also have a two per cent stout which, when it was released about a year and a half ago, was very hard to sell. Now, however, it is much easier and we have a lot of people coming into the shop to ask about it particularly.”

He added: “Certainly, the drink-drive limit changes have affected things. We have also seen a rise in demand for non-alcoholic beers, but a large part of that could be down to New Year’s resolutions and things like the ‘dry January’ charity drives.”

Tesco beer spokeswoman Natasha Pitman said while demand had also risen in the rest of the UK, the increase was three times higher north of the Border. “The new drink-drive limit appears to be having an effect in changing people’s lifestyles in Scotland,” she said.

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said no figures had yet been made available on the effect of the legislation, but pubs had anecdotally noticed a change. He said: “Businesses certainly have been quoted as saying the drink-driving laws are having more of an effect than the smoking ban.”

He added: “People’s habits and attitudes to alcohol are changing as a result of the new legislation – they are drinking less even if they are not driving, as they are worried about if they have to drive the next morning.”

Chief Supt Iain Murray said: “Our advice to all drivers is: don’t risk it. Even at the new levels, you will still be three times more likely to die in a collision than without any alcohol.”

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