40P PER unit of alcohol seems to be the target Health Minister Edwin Poots is aiming for in his battle to beat the bingers. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on what side of the gable wall you’re standing on – the legislation probably won’t be in place until next year as it will take until the autumn at the earliest, according to the Minister, to draw up legislation that “can’t be challenged”. Squinter, naive fool that he is, thought all legislation was drawn up in such a way that it’s impervious to legal challenge, but what does he know?
Anyway – 40p per unit. Seems pretty low to Squinter when the idea is to make drink too dear for the binge-drinkers, and in particular young binge drinkers. So let’s see if we can’t crunch the numbers, as they say in Lagan Valley.
When you’re talking about bringing the price of a unit of alcohol UP to 40p, let’s be honest, you’re talking really about the battery fluid end of the market. You can’t bring the price of a glass of Cristal Champagne or even a half-litre of Stella Artois up to 40p because they are much more expensive than that and aimed at the more sophisticated end of the market – customers with less than five tattoos, for instance; people over 16. And so the harsh reality is that we’re talking mostly cider because it’s cider we’re overwhelmingly referring to when we’re debating alcohol that would lose its popular appeal if its price were to skyrocket to 40p a unit. Let’s take as a case study a typical barrackbuster of bargain basement cider (BBBC). A barrackbuster is three litres of cider, as anyone who has ever studied the labels on the empty bottles in the city’s parks will know. A quick bit of internet window shopping reveals that a barrackbuster can be bought for as low as £2.13 (supermarket own-label) or as much as £3.05 (classy branded gear). Since a unit of alcohol in medium-strength cider terms is a half-litre, that means that a unit of cider currently costs a smick anything from 33.8p to 50.8p. The Poots suggestion to put a minimum price of 40p on a unit of alcohol would see the price of a barrackbuster of bottom-end cider rise from £2.03 to £2.40. The branded cider – which is overwhelmingly favoured by the al fresco crowd – will not be affected at all. Not exactly a revolution, is it?