A Last Call for Cheap Alcohol?
Byline: FOR Rooney Anand, Greene King chief executive
FEW industries have faced attacks on quite so many fronts as the drinks business, writes Rupert Steiner.
Whether it be smoking bans, the beer tax escalator, or hard-up drinkers staying at home to sup their pints, pubs groups, brewers and off licence chains have struggled to survive what has been a barrage of bad news.
They, along with the manufacturers of arms, and purveyors of tobacco are never going to garner much sympathy, despite the industry employing almost 1m, paying wages of [pounds sterling]12.8bn annually, and [pounds sterling]11bn in tax.
United on most issues - especially calls for the Chancellor to axe the beer tax escalator in next week's Autumn Statement - it is the prospect of a minimum price for alcohol of 40p-a-unit that has divided the key players.
The pubs groups, which have been under attack from supermarket giants heavily discounting booze, stand to benefit from the grocers being forced to hike their prices to a set minimum level.
While the brewers and grocers, subject to the impact of elastic demand on pricing, understandably want to resist such a move. Whether the Government will push ahead with such a policy will be decided within a matter of days.
YOU only need to walk down many of our high streets on a Friday or Saturday night to see just how far our country's relationship with alcohol has broken down.
Many town centres are testimony to the fact that for some people, binge drinking at the weekend has become a regular pastime. Often it is our vital emergency services that end up clearing up the mess: it is estimated that up to 35pc of all accident and emergency attendances and ambulance costs are now alcohol-related.
Young adults aged 18-24 are more likely to die during an activity while they are excessively drunk than from any other ailment or accident. Longer term issues are just as prevalent.
In Scotland, up to 65,000 children live with a parent with an alcohol problem. Last year the treatment of the chronic and acute effects of drinking cost the NHS almost [pounds sterling]2.7bn. The sad thing is that any life lost to alcohol is needless and unnecessary.
'Binge drinking' has become an activity in itself and one that is increasingly and perilously cheap to do. …