Raising the cost of drink

Fri, Jan 13, 2012, 00:00

Sir, – Your correspondent Joe Kelly (January 12th) makes the claim: “There is no evidence that price is a factor in relation to alcohol consumption”.

On the contrary, there is overwhelming scientific evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, that alcohol (like any other good or service) is subject to the law of demand.

That is, when something becomes more expensive, people buy less of it. If Mr Kelly were right, why would sellers of alcohol not simply double their prices? – Yours, etc,


School of Economics,

University College Dublin,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – The proposal to increase the price of alcohol is very misguided for several reasons.

First, alcohol is basically a good product. Used in moderation, it is both good for physical health and helps mental health through relaxation and socialising. It is the abuse of alcohol that is a problem and this affects only a minority. Increasing the price of alcohol because some abuse it is akin to raising the price of food because some people are fat. It is very unfair to the majority who do not have any alcohol problem.

Second, alcohol abuse is clearly a cultural and personal problem, not a pricing problem. Countries such as Spain have cheap alcohol. All cafes sell it and it is available throughout the day, even for breakfast. Yet the kind of social and personal problems associated with alcohol are far lower there than here.

Finally, and most importantly, demonising alcohol as the problem instead of the symptom means the focus for solutions is totally wrong. The current proposed price rises and the recent farcical changes in the trading hours so that an adult citizen cannot buy a bottle of wine for the Sunday dinner before 12.30pm are in this category. Alcohol problems lie with the individual abusing alcohol, not the alcohol itself, and it is with the individual that the solution must lie.

Blaming alcohol prices for underage drinking is even more bizarre. It is up to parents to control the drinking of their children and not duck their responsibility by blaming alcohol itself.

Raising the price of alcohol will probably reduce its consumption and the Government will claim a victory. However the consumption reduction will be by the majority who have no alcohol problem.

Consumption among problem drinkers will not change; it will just cost them more. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.