Plan to curb cheap alcohol dealt a blow by poll
A clear majority of people in Northern Ireland do not want the price of alcohol to rise in supermarkets or off-licences, The Belfast Telegraph poll has revealed.
There is also widespread support for shops to open on Sundays in tourist areas.
The popular view on drink prices cut across plans of Edwin Poots, the health minister, who has won cross-party support to introduce a minimum price for alcohol.
The measure aims to increase the prices of the cheaper drinks, with beer and cider promotions a particular target.
There are also plans to increase the unit prices of alcohol to 40p in England and Wales, but Mr Poots has said he is thinking of 45-50p here.
That would put a large bottle of cider up to £7. More expensive drinks like better quality wines and branded whiskey would be largely unaffected because they are above the minimum price already. However only 38% of people surveyed in our poll said they would back an increase.
All those surveyed answered the question: ‘Is the price of alcohol in NI off-licence outlets and supermarkets too high, too low, or about right?’ There were no ‘don’t knows’.
Some 32% said prices should stay as they are and 29% believed prices were already too high. In the 18-24 age bracket nearly half of respondents (48%) thought alcohol was too expensive in off licenses and supermarkets with just 20% saying they were too low and the remaining 32% believing they were “about right.”
Cutting down binge drinking amongst younger people is one aim of the planned increase.
Pubs of Ulster have been in the forefront of the campaign for increased prices in off-licences. They believe that people are filling up on cheap supermarket alcohol before going out for the evening. Most pub prices would be unaffected.
However, even amongst people over 65 only 41% thought the cost of supermarket alcohol was too low, with 33% thinking it was about right and 26% saying it was too high. There was little to differentiate Protestants and Catholics in their opposition to increased drink prices. People outside the two main Christian traditions were more open to a price increase, but even in this group it was 60/40 against.
Not surprisingly, the feeling that drink was already too expensive rose amongst lower income groups, with 41% taking this view.
The move to increase prices, due to be implemented next year, is being co-ordinated with the Republic where prices are currently higher than here. Mr Poots believes price increases would cut the cost of alcohol misuse which he estimates as £900m a year.
Sunday opening in tourist areas won strong support with 76% of respondents supporting the idea and 14% offering no opinion.
Of those who did express an opinion 89% supported the move and 11% were against. The proportion in favour was similar for Protestants and Catholics (91% and 97% respectively.)
Currently larger stores have limited opening hours on Sunday ,making us the only UK region without 24/7 supermarkets.
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