Cheap booze is easier than ever to get in poor areas

Cheap booze in supermarkets or off-licences is taking over from pubs.
Cheap booze in supermarkets or off-licences is taking over from pubs.

Cheap alcohol is easier than ever to buy despite the dramatic surge in pub closures - especially in deprived areas.

A new study shows that despite 10 per cent of pubs closing between 2001 and 2013, the number of supermarkets and convenience stores selling beer, wine and spirits has more than doubled.

Cheap booze is more available.

Cheap booze is more available.

It means 85 per cent of postcodes have access to a shop or pub selling alcohol within 500 metres.

Alcohol is more easily available to buy in more deprived areas, with three times as many outlets selling booze within walking distance.

The researchers said although the number of outlets selling alcohol has fallen in the most deprived areas, a "substantial switch" from large numbers of pubs to large numbers of convenience stores means availability of cheap alcohol is likely to have increased "significantly" in those areas.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research's School for Public Health Research and Alcohol Research UK, raises important concerns about the availability of alcohol, especially in deprived areas which are more affected by alcohol-related health problems.

Study leader Colin Angus, a research fellow at Sheffield University, said: "Our research shows a major change in how people obtain their alcohol.

"Small supermarkets and convenience stores, where alcohol is commonly available at low prices, have proliferated in recent years.

"At the same time, the numbers of pubs, which sell alcohol at a higher price, has decreased dramatically.

"What is especially concerning is that these trends are most pronounced in deprived areas, which we know are particularly affected by alcohol-related harm."

Dr James Nicholls of Alcohol Research UK, which helped fund the study, said: "This research provides important new insights into the alcohol retail market in the UK.

"Understanding the relationship between where alcohol is sold, how available it is, and the harm linked to consumption is crucial to the work of local licensing authorities and public health teams.

"We hope this new study will further strengthen the ability of regulators to develop effective policies around alcohol sales."