Minimum Price for Alcohol: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron

Subject: Minimum Price for Alcohol: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron
From: Simon Lessig
Date: 19 Nov 2012
David Cameron Image

Dear Prime Minister.
I understand that you are supporting a proposal to have a minimum price per unit of alcohol. It seems that it will probably be about 40p-50p per unit of alcohol. That would make a can of average strength lager £2 per can, and a bottle of supermarket red wine £6.50. I understand that the Treasury is in turmoil because they fear that they will lose revenue because people will buy less alcohol as a result, and they will raise less in taxes. That may be so, but I come at this from a different angle.
If alcohol is a bad drug and should be banned because it is harming the fabric of the nation, then ban it. If its use by some people causes problems, such as in antisocial behaviour, and/or a strain on the NHS, then address the people who have this problem. But do not take a steam hammer to crack a peanut, and support a blanket across the board arbitrary increase in the price of all alcohol in the hope that it may affect the target people you are trying to discourage from drinking excess alcohol.
Firstly it won’t have the desired effect on “problem” drinkers. They will merely divert more money to buy drink from other parts of their budget, and in doing so are likely to cause more harm to themselves and their family by eating less well, or even turning to crime to supplement their income so as to afford your increase in alcohol. You should address the problem of problem drinkers, and not inflict some pathetic easy-way-out option that penalises everyone. Alcoholic drink has been brewed, distilled or fermented in this country for hundreds of years. Has the fabric of the nation been undone due to drink in that time? Have we been too boozy to fight and win wars? Have we had revolution and overthrown governments in an alcoholic haze? Of course not. Problems caused by alcohol have always been a problem in a small minority of the population. So why penalise the rest of the population who are responsible drinkers?
You are in effect putting a tax on me and my bottle of wine because you are too lazy to address the issue of problem drinking by those who are the problem. And of course, as many people who drink responsibly earn less than you and your Tory cronies, it will affect them more than it does you and yours. In effect it’s a tax on the working class and the less well off. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Why don’t you impose a tax on any food that has added salt? Saturated fat? Added sugar? Or confectionary? Coffee? Anything that we enjoy but that a scientist somewhere says is bad for us or causes moral decline? What about religion? What about Members of Parliament fiddling expenses? Slap a tax on all that and it’s sorted?
Come on Mr Cameron, you know that this proposal is as flawed as alcohol-free wine. Think again, and have some respect for the millions of responsible drinkers in the country, and then I may raise a glass to you!