All the various claims about alcohol taxes and sales are confusing. Don Shenker of Alcohol Concern says that: “Duty is so low in the UK that it will still be possible to sell very cheap alcohol and be within the law.” On the other hand, we read about tax going up faster than inflation and that we are more highly taxed than most EU countries. What is a confused drinker to think? Who's telling the porkies?
Well, the answer is quite simple: the anti-drink campaigners. Using the technique of the big lie perfected by Joseph Göbbels, they keep on reiterating the same falsehoods, which in turn are routinely recycled by an unquestioning media as facts rather than propaganda. Don Shenker's comment about low duty must be viewed with the following statistic in mind: according to the British Beer & Pub Association, "Britain’s beer drinkers are paying 40% of the entire beer duty bill in the European Union – despite Britain’s small, 12% share of the total population. UK beer drinkers are paying £3.1 billion out of an EU total of £7.7 billion in beer duty revenues." The full article is here. So much for low duty.
It is impossible to have a rational discussion about alcohol when one side deliberately confuses supermarket-driven binge drinking with regulated pub-going, the media usually shows pints of beer being pulled in a pub when referring to alcohol problems (instead of cheap vodka and tins of strong cider and lager), the discredited 14/21 units per week keep on being quoted as facts, and the myth that our duty is low keeps on being peddled.
But don't the anti-alcohol campaigners have a point about supermarket prices being low, even with the new minimum price? They're correct about the prices, but not about the reason. The minimum price is defined as tax and VAT only, and won't include the costs of production, transport by the producer, transport by the supermarket, storage, advertising, stacking the shelves or checkout costs.
Tesco, seller of cut-price booze, has proclaimed its support for a minimum price for alcohol, so why doesn't Don Shenker and his ilk say, "In that case, just do it!" Instead he has publicly welcomed Tesco's "commitment" to minimum pricing - even though they have done absolutely nothing - then continues to whinge about "low" levels of duty and to demand even more regulation of pubs, the dearest places to buy drink.
That is the level of debate. Pathetic, isn't it?