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Cheap supermarket beer ‘188% more affordable than 30 years ago’

The figures have been described as 'extremely worrying' by Colin Shevills, director of Balance.
The figures have been described as 'extremely worrying' by Colin Shevills, director of Balance.

Cheap supermarket alcohol is now 188% more affordable than 30 years ago, according to new figures.

Research by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) also shows that off-trade wine and spirits from shops are 131% more affordable than they were in 1987.

Colin Shevills of Balance.

Colin Shevills of Balance.

The figures have been described as “extremely worrying” by pressure group Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

It comes as peers debate minimum unit pricing for England in the House of Lords today, and as Scotland prepares to introduce a minimum unit price on May 1.

Balance director Colin Shevills said: “These figures are extremely worrying.

“As alcohol has got cheaper, individuals and communities are seeing more harm from alcohol.

“Cheap alcohol is contributing to a massive burden on our North East public services, with alcohol costing our NHS £209million a year for services like hospital admissions and A&E attendances, and police £331million in crime and disorder.

“It is also no wonder that many pub landlords see cheap supermarket alcohol is one of the biggest threats to the local community pub.

“Minimum unit pricing is being introduced in Scotland, while politicians in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have all committed to it.

“It is vital that the UK government now follows suit, so that England does not get left behind.”

Research by Balance shows that 54% of adults in the North East support the introduction of a minimum unit price, with 19% opposing.

A national survey of pub managers also found that 83% believe supermarket alcohol is too cheap.

The IAS research is the first to compare affordability in supermarkets and off-licences to pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants using data up to 2016.

Katherine Brown, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “Evidence shows that as alcohol becomes more affordable, communities experience greater levels of harm.

“In England cheap alcohol is creating a huge burden on our NHS, police and public services with more than 1.2 million hospital admissions and one million crimes related to alcohol each year.

“These findings strengthen the case for minimum unit pricing, which would target the cheapest alcohol drunk by those causing damage to themselves and others without affecting the cost of a pint down the pub.”

The minimum unit pricing which will be introduced in Scotland will set a floor price of 50p per unit, below which alcohol cannot be sold.