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Alcohol being sold at 'pocket money prices', report reveals

Published 06/10/2016

Alcohol can be bought for as little as 16p a unit, researchers have found
Alcohol can be bought for as little as 16p a unit, researchers have found

Alcohol continues to be sold at "pocket money" prices across the UK, with white cider on offer for pennies, according to a new report.

The study from the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) concluded that little has changed in recent years when it comes to people being able to buy very cheap booze from supermarkets and off-licences.

Researchers from the AHA analysed 480 products to find the cheapest drink on sale across the UK.

They said: "The conclusion is clear - alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices in supermarkets and off-licences across the UK."

The team found that high-strength white cider, which they say is mostly drunk by dependent and underage drinkers, is being sold for as little as 16p per unit of alcohol.

They found a wide range of cheap alcohol being sold by major supermarkets - including Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's.

Their report said: " Both Asda and Tesco were found to be selling perry at 19p per unit, while Morrisons were selling cider at 20p per unit and Sainsbury's stocked perry at 22p per unit.

"In our research, we also found an abundance of summer-focused promotions. The promotions included deals on multi-packs and free giveaways with alcohol purchases, enticing people to buy."

The report said that for the cost of a standard off-peak cinema ticket (£8.24), people could buy 7.5 litre s of the cheapest white cider - the equivalent of 53 shots of vodka.

"The minimum hourly wage for those aged under 18 is £3.87," the study went on. " After just an hour's work, you would still have 38p change after buying a three-litre bottle of Frosty Jack's containing 22.5 units of alcohol.

"For the cost of a monthly Netflix subscription at £7.49, you would have change from buying two three-litre bottles of Frosty Jack's.

"Today, £10 will not buy you a large Domino's pizza, but you would have a penny left over from a 700ml bottle of 40% Putinoff vodka at £9.99."

The report concluded: " Cheap booze can be found on every street corner. Fundamentally, very little has changed since the last report was carried out five years ago.

"While the lowest price we report is 16p per unit, we found a broad range of products on sale for 25p or less, which is half the 50p minimum unit price recommended by health bodies and alcohol charities.

"At the cheapest price per unit for white cider (16p), the low-risk drinking limit of 14 units per week for both men and women could be purchased for just £2.24."

Chairman of the AHA and former president of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, said: "In spite of a government commitment to tackle cheap, high-strength alcohol, these products are still available at pocket money prices. Harmful drinkers and children are still choosing the cheapest products - predominantly white cider and cheap vodka.

"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."

Each year, there are almost 23,000 deaths and more than one million hospital admissions related to alcohol in England.

More than two-thirds of alcohol sold in the UK is purchased in supermarkets and off-licences.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "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. The Government awaits the outcome of the case in the Scottish courts and we will continue to monitor developments."

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