Dear Badger,

I like many of my fellow Sussex students, enjoy a drink every now and then. However it seems barely a week goes by that my right to enjoy a nice cold pint is under attack. The Tories are flirting with increasing regulation on alcohol and cigarettes, and the SNP want minimum alcohol unit pricing in Scotland. All of these proposals are at least in my view, patronising and silly.

Firstly, it’s important to understanding that high alcohol taxes and minimum pricing are both regressive, meaning that it would disproportionally affect people on low incomes. This is because poorer people, like most Sussex students, spend a greater proportion of their income on everyday living costs including food, transport and yes, even drinking. If a minimum price of around 45-50p per unit was introduced, it will significantly impact poorer households more than the rich. Meanwhile, mega-corporations like Tesco and Asda are likely to make a killing in increased profits as prices go up, all at your expense. While we can’t be certain that any of these nanny state policies will improve health, we can be certain that a huge number of ordinary people will be out of pocket.

In addition, alcohol is already taxed extensively in the UK. A single pint of beer from East Slope Bar can set you back up to 43p in alcohol duty alone, and that’s not even including VAT. Students have already been hit hard lately. Under this government we have seen the tripling of tuition fees, abolition of EMA and other austerity measures. The last thing we need is for the price of a pint to go up as well!

Thirdly, there is little evidence to suggest that it would work anyway. If people want to drink they will drink, regardless of the impact on their health. Increasing the price of alcohol could lead to the development of a black market in unregulated alcohol. As prohibition in 1920’s America taught us, where there is a demand there will always be a supply, whatever politicians say. Aldi lager is admittedly not very good for you, but the alternatives are potentially even worse.

When enjoyed responsibly, drinking is a fun leisure activity, not a crime. We as university students are old enough to make our own decisions regarding alcohol consumption, and decide for ourselves how much we drink. If we want people to act like responsible adults when it comes to alcohol, then they should be treated as such. Enough of this nonsense!

Yours,

A “Responsible” Drinker

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  • Firstly, I wholeheartedly agree with you that people will always find a way to drink, whatever happens.

    But, you cannot ignore the outrageously high effective cost alcohol has on our health service; and on policing – you mentioned drinking is not a crime, but it sure as hell as a YUGE effect on crimes committed/accidents. I congratulate you for being a responsible drinker, but you are in the (relative) minority – one need only take a walk down West Street at 3-4am on a Saturday/Sunday morning to see just how far people take it.

    We are a nation of functioning alcoholics and the binge-drinking-brigade culture really needs to change.

    Is this the right way of doing it? Probably not. I would lean on better educating people at younger ages or finding a more nuanced approach (like they have done with cigarettes: challenge the image/perception) to tackling it, and not the lazy ‘increase cost’ approach.