Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, 2010.
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Poor drinkers in the UK consume a relatively high proportion of their alcohol in the form of very cheap products, but wealthier drinkers also drink these; a moderately high minimum price would spread the impact. Findings informed a Home Office assessment of the likely impact of a rise in the price of alcohol in Britain.
• All income groups purchase low price off sales alcohol.
• The relationship between income group and the amount of alcohol purchased at the cheapest price (below 30p a unit) is not straightforward. Although the lowest income group buys more than the highest at this price, there is little difference between the middle income groups and the lowest.
• At prices of 30p to 40p and 40p to 50p, the amount purchased tends to increase with income.
• Middle-to-higher income groups are the main purchasers of alcohol priced between 30p and 50p.
• For individual alcohol types (beer, lager, table wine and spirits), the lowest income groups purchase less than the average number of units below 30p and below 40p.
• Low income households are less likely to purchase off sales alcohol at all.
These data from the Expenditure and Food Survey suggest that the purchasing of low priced alcohol occurs across the income distribution. If anything, middle income groups appear to purchase more of the lower price alcohol. One potential explanation may be that these households have sufficient discretionary income to allow them to take advantage of discounted special offers. This cannot be tested with the data available, however. The tendency for middle and higher income groups to buy more low price alcohol is more noticeable in the price bands at 30p to 40p and 40p to 50p than in the price band below 30p. This may suggest that higher values for a minimum price (40p or 50p rather than 30p) will spread the effect more evenly across income groups.
commentary This is one of the reports which informed a UK Home Office assessment published in January 2011 of the likely impact of a rise in the price of alcohol in Britain.
Last revised 09 February 2011