By Olly Davies
On March 2, 2020, the Welsh Government is set to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) wherein retailers must charge at least 50p per unit of alcohol. It has been nicknamed the ‘Strongbow Tax’ because it will most heavily affect strong but inexpensive beer and ciders.
The pricing works by creating a baseline below which no alcoholic drink can be sold. The baseline price will depend upon the number of units in the drink. Under the new regulations, a bottle of wine containing ten units will now cost a minimum of £5.
The aim of the measure is to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed in Wales. Currently, around one in every 20 deaths, or 1,500 per year, are related to alcohol, and roughly 10% of those in hospitals in Wales are reportedly dependent on alcohol. Moreover, alcohol-related incidents put extra strain on emergency services and local councils.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that increasing alcohol tax is one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce alcohol consumption by at least 10%. This move is also supported by Public Health England.
MUP has been in place in Scotland since May 2018, and whilst the measures have been successful there at reducing alcohol consumption, there is concern about the impact MUP might have on low-income families in Wales as there is arguably a potential for the measure to increase economic disparity throughout the country.
Speaking to Cardiff University students, the MUP has received a mixed reception. The ‘Strongbow Tax’ will affect cheap drinks, often popular amongst students, such as Frosty Jacks and Knight Rider.
Some have said they can see the benefits of “discouraging drinking very heavily at an early age” and believe it will help to “cull pre-drinking before very boozy socials”.
Other students disagree with the introduction of the MUP, however. One second year student at Cardiff University said “I cannot see the point in it. Those who have a problem will find a way to drink, the money doesn’t matter.
“All this will do is raise the prices of alcohol across the board and students will turn to even more creative ways to get intoxicated.”
The potential price raise was also a concern for other students. Now in his third year at Cardiff University, Eddie Latter suggested “it will knock on to all booze prices…Why would you sell something good for the same price?”
Corin Scott, another third year student, said: “For students, [MUP] is not ideal because it makes [alcohol] more expensive. But, for people with a genuine drinking problem it could be beneficial, although they might just move onto something more dangerous”.
Only time will tell what the consequences of the ‘Strongbow Tax’ will be. It is hoped they will be beneficial, but will students be left to feel the pinch?