A GOVERNMENT plan to ban the sale of cheap booze has been branded “laughable” by a regional alcohol watchdog.
Ministers have announced that, from April 6, they will halt the sale of alcohol at below cost – defined as duty plus VAT.
As a result, an ordinary can of 440ml beer or lager cannot be purchased for below 50p.
But Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, says the move is small beer compared to the introduction of a minimum unit price of 45p, which it wants.
It says this would be more successful in cutting down on booze-related deaths, hospital admissions and crimes.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “It is laughable that the Government has introduced a ban on sales of alcohol at below cost as a means to reduce the impact that cheap alcohol continues to have on society.
“Independent research from the University of Sheffield shows that the new policy will prevent 15 alcohol-related deaths, reduce hospital admissions by 500 and see 900 fewer alcohol-related crimes a year.
“A minimum unit price of 45p, which had initially been proposed by the Government, would be up to 50 times more impactful.
“There is no evidence base to support a ban on sales of alcohol at below cost and it will have very little effect on the price of alcohol – particularly the products which cause the most damage to young and heavy drinkers such as white cider and cheap vodka.
“It’s also complicated to implement and police.
“It basically gives the alcohol industry the go-ahead to give alcohol away, provided they collect duty and VAT.
“This measure enables the Government to say it is doing something.
“But by listening to the alcohol industry, which proposed this measure, we will see more alcohol-related deaths, crimes and hospital admissions.
“To tackle the problem of cheap, strong alcohol, we need to introduce a minimum unit price.
“It is proven to reduce alcohol harms, saving thousands of lives, reducing hospital admissions and drastically cutting crime.”
Under the ban on below cost sales, the lowest price for a bottle of wine will be £2.24, with a bottle of vodka or other spirits setting customers back a minimum of £10.16.
Low-strength beers that have an alcoholic content of 1.2 per cent or less will be exempt from the policy, as will duty-free sales on ships, aircraft and in airports.