Deaths from liver disease have doubled in Britain in recent years while other countries such as France have seen “profound” falls thanks in part to “strict” rules on marketing drink, a strongly-worded article in The Lancet claims.
Academics say that total deaths from the “wider harms” caused to society by alcohol could reach 250,000 in England and Wales by 2019 if current trends continue. (250,000 deaths from alcohol)
The Lancet report places much of the blame on the availability of cheap alcohol. In recent years, the number of pubs in the UK has declined. There has been a corresponding rise in sales of alcohol from supermarkets. Supermarkets have often been accused of selling alcohol below cost – as a loss leader to attract customers.
The government plan to:
- raise alcohol duty 2% a year more than the inflation rate
- Ban shops from selling alcohol below cost.
However, critics argue this does not go far enough as it still allows alcohol to be very cheap.
External Costs of Alcohol
In addition to the private costs of alcohol (cost of buying, diseases, addiction e.t.c)
Alcohol has numerous external costs. These external costs mean the social marginal cost (SMC) is greater than private marginal cost (PMC)
- accidents due to the influence of alcohol
- cost to NHS of treating alcohol-related diseases and accidents.
Solutions to Overconsumption of Alcohol
- Tax alcohol
- Increase tax by more than the current rate. – Should the tax on alcohol be increased?
2. Impose minimum prices
- Impose minimum prices. See minimum prices for alcohol
3. Behavioural economics – nudge consumers away from buying
- Make it harder to advertise (like cigarettes) Keep alcohol away from places where it’s easy to buy
- Ban alcoholic drinks targetted at teenagers (alcopops)
4. Increase legal age to 21