Worrying news from Ipswich where the local council have launched a “voluntary” scheme called Reducing the Strength to persuade off-licences not to stock any beers or ciders above 6.5% ABV, as these are supposedly disproportionately consumed by problem street drinkers. So far, 53 out of 130 off-licences in the borough have had their arms twisted to remove these products from sale.
I get a bit weary of having to repeat the arguments against this kind of bansturbatory nonsense ad nauseum, but here goes:
- If you stop selling it in one shop, people will simply go to another one. If you stop it being sold anywhere, people will simply ship it in from elsewhere and sell it on.
- This is not simply increasing price as a deterrent (whether through tax or minimum pricing) but preventing an entire category of drinks from being sold at all. While it cannot be denied that these products are popular with street drinkers, they are also bought by many responsible consumers who do not cause any problems.
- Yet again, beer and cider are being singled out when it cannot be argued that wine and spirits are innocent of any involvement in problem drinking.
- Does the ban also include “craft” products such as Duvel, Old Tom and Weston’s cider? If so, is that remotely reasonable? And, if not, where do you draw the line?
- The threshold is already a full percentage point below the existing cut-off for higher beer and cider duty, providing further evidence of the ratcheting down of levels of acceptability.
(h/t to Publican Sam)