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News - 3 September 2010

Alcohol sales decline markedly

According to the British Beer and Pub Association [BBPA], last year the recession and other factors led to the sharpest year-on-year fall in alcohol consumption in the UK for over 60 years.

Using data from HM Revenue and Customs [HMRC], the BBPA figures in their Statistical Handbook [2010] showed a 6% fall in 2009; the fourth decrease in five years. UK drinkers are now consuming 13% less alcohol than in 2004 [the year of peak consumption], which is below the European Union average.

The decline appears to have been across the range of outlets selling alcohol including pubs, night-clubs, off-licences, restaurants and supermarkets.

The recession almost certainly played its part in the decline but it could also be a sign that messages about responsible drinking have affected drinking habits.

Successive increases in alcohol taxes could also be a deterrent. The UK tax on beer [the most popular drink accounting for 60% of all sales] is the second highest duty rate in the EU - 10 times higher than in Germany and seven times higher than in France.

Alcohol Concern has suggested a minimum price for a unit of alcohol [see earlier story] but the BBPA are opposed to this idea saying: "A minimum price is a blanket measure that will just put up everybody's shopping bill in a time of recession. What we need is targeted measures at those who are misusing alcohol,"

The government, although supportive of minimum pricing, is reluctant to support it by increasing the tax.


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