I don’t know about you, but I drank like a fish in college. Part of the reason was that alcohol was everywhere: free and cheap. The “campus pub” across the commons from my dorm (yes, the drinking age was lower then) offered one dollar kamikaze shots in little plastic shot glasses, so we’d line em up on the bar. Fraternity parties lured unsuspecting freshmen girls with free beer (even if it did taste like water).
So–does free and cheap booze lead to binge drinking? Which came first–the chicken (in this case, the eager freshmen) or the egg?
The UK is dealing with this problem in a big way, especially since the statistics about rising alcohol use are sobering. According to the Economist: “In the past 50 years Britons’ consumption of alcohol has more than doubled, though it remains somewhat lower than it was at the start of the 20th century. British livers are feeling the strain: cases of cirrhosis are on the increase, just as they are declining elsewhere in Europe. The national binge has at least in part been caused by low prices: although booze has got more expensive in real terms over the past 30 years, it has become a lot cheaper relative to earnings, and is about 70% more affordable now than it was in 1980.”
In some supermarkets in Great Britain (Sainsbury’s and Tesco, for example), beer is cheaper than bottled water. At Sainsbury’s, a two litre plastic bottle of alcoholic “cider” costs the equivalent of $1.94, according to the Economist. Also on the shelves: an even stronger variety of cider, with the incentive that the more you buy, the deeper the discount will be.
Does dirt-cheap alcohol cause people to drink more than they normally would? Supporters of a growing temperance movement in the UK, along with health experts, are saying it does, and they are seeking to end the sale of cheap booze. A compelling parliamentary report released in December detailed Britain’s growing alcohol problems, but the government has yet to approve minimum pricing laws.
Instead, on Tuesday, according to the Huffington Post, the government said it would ban “irresponsible promotions and boozy contests such as the “dentist’s chair”–where alcohol is poured directly into customers’ mouths – in an effort to tackle Britain’s binge-drinking problem.”
Some feel that it’s unfair to take away cheap booze during a recession, and they argue that if minimum pricing is enforced, responsible drinkers will be unfairly penalized. I say: As much as I love my ice cream and my wine, those are luxuries, so I don’t mind if they’re priced a bit higher. And I don’t really need a stockpile of cheap ice cream or wine in my fridge to tempt me.
So what do you think? Do you think cheap booze encourages drinking? Do you mind paying a bit more for your luxuries? Can you imagine if stores did 2 for 1′s and promos on fresh fruits and vegetables instead of junk food and cheap liquor? I’m just saying..