Alcohol sold at ‘pocket money’ prices, AHA warns

The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) has warned that alcohol is being sold at ‘pocket money’ prices across the UK, with underage drinkers most likely to consume cheap drinks.

The AHA involves more than 40 organisations, including medical colleges and various health charities. The group served the cost of 480 products on sale in major supermarkets and off-licenses in London, north-east England, north-west England and Scotland.

The research found Asda and Tesco to be selling perry, a drink made from fermented pears, at 19p per unit of alcohol. Multi-packs of beer were also being sold in supermarkets for 23p per unit, while vodka was on sale for 36p per unit and wine, 32p per unit.

The campaigners warned that harmful drinkers and children were among those who were most likely to choose the cheapest products. It highlighted that a three-litre bottle of cider on sale at Bargain Booze was on sale for £3.49 and contained 22.5 units of alcohol.

The chairman of the AHA, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the former president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "In spite of a government commitment to tackle cheap, high-strength alcohol, these products are still available at pocket money prices. We need to make excessively cheap alcohol less affordable through the tax system, including an increase in cider duty. It’s not right that high strength white cider is taxed at a third of the rate for strong beer.

"In addition, we need minimum unit pricing. This would target the cheap, high strength products drunk by harmful drinkers whilst barely affecting moderate drinkers, and it would leave pub prices untouched."

The government has already brought in rules which ban extreme discounting of alcohol in shops in England and Wales, however the government is yet to enforce plans to bring in minimum pricing.

A Home Office spokeswoman commented: "The harms associated with excessive alcohol remain too high and current legislation prevents the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT.

"Minimum unit pricing will remain under review while we monitor legal developments and the implementation of this policy in Scotland."