The Government is investigating multi-buy promotions on alcohol as it looks to cut both crime rates and the level of health problems. Tiffany Holland reports.

Why are we talking about this now?

The Home Office has opened a 10-week Alcohol Strategy Consultation, proposing a ban on multi-buy deals for alcohol and a minimum price for alcohol units in an attempt to stem the damage caused by excessive drinking to both crime levels and people’s health in England.

It will mean retailers will have to adjust their pricing strategies to the law if it comes into force.

Why is the Government proposing the regulations?

The Government believes that by upping the price of alcohol and taking them off promotion it will tackle the problem of “drink fuelled antisocial behaviour and crime blighting our communities” as well as rising NHS costs and liver disease.

Ministers have proposed a 45p minimum price per alcohol unit, 5p higher than that suggested in March. The 45p minimum would mean a can of strong lager could not be sold for less than £1.56 and a bottle of wine below £4.22.

Research from Sheffield University shows a 45p minimum would reduce the consumption of alcohol by 4.3%, leading to 2,000 fewer deaths and 66,000 hospital admissions after 10 years.

Meanwhile, multi-buy deals, such as two-for-the-price-of-one, could be banned.

Scotland has recently put forward similar proposals, how successful has that been?

Scottish ministers want to set a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol to tackle the country’s health problems. The act received the Royal Assent in June but has not yet been put in force due to concerns from the European Commission, which said it is disproportionate to the impact on the country’s health. There has also been a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association and wine-producing EU nations.

What do retailers think of the proposals?

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) have slammed the new proposals saying they will mainly hit responsible drinkers.

The BRC said retailers have already taken action to tackle drinking problem including supporting the Drinkaware campaign and using Challenge 25 to ensure all people who look under 25 are asked for identification, despite the drinking age limit being far younger at 18 years.

How likely is it regulations will be implemented?

There remains a long way to go before proposals are passed. Even if the 10-week consultation recommends a ban the law has to be passed and the EC, as in the case of Scotland, may take issue.