However, as noted repeatedly in the debate, increasing the price of alcohol, by whatever means, risks unfairly penalising the majority who drink responsibly, while having little effect on the drinking habits of that minority who consume most and cause harm to themselves and others. These problem drinkers will simply find other ways to access alcohol, which may include smuggled and/or illicitly manufactured product.
We recognise there is significant public concern regarding some of the extreme examples of discounting of alcohol. Restrictions on below-cost selling as proposed by the UK government – such as stopping the sale of alcohol below duty plus VAT – is a response worthy of closer examination. Having said that, we strongly believe evidence-based programmes, such as community alcohol partnerships where industry can work alongside police, local authorities and other stakeholders, remain the most appropriate and effective approach.
Park Royal, London
Regarding the debate on restricting the availability of alcohol, there are three factors that need to be considered: affordability, availability and taste.
There is no doubt the price is relatively cheaper today that it was, say, 20 years ago and, as such, is now bought by more people and in quantities unheard of a generation ago. Minimum pricing, as suggested by the Scottish Government, will go some way to redress this.
Alcohol is widely available in supermarkets and off-sales as well as pubs and clubs. The competition that exists between these further exacerbates the pricing issue. The Scottish Government needs to look at examples from other countries regarding how alcohol is sold (for example, Canada has separate stores selling alcohol during hours that are more restricted than the supermarkets here).
As far as taste is concerned, over the years the marketing of alcohol has been directed more towards younger people in the community; again, attempting to take advantage of higher disposable incomes in this age group. Government needs to be strong in patrolling and controlling these ventures.
A strong alcohol policy need not detract from the pleasure that can be derived from sensible and appropriate consumption.
HECTOR M MacLEAN
East Linton, East Lothian