The Big Booze debate – Is it unethical for businesses to sell ‘cut-price’ alcohol?

By Emily Reed – Fashion PR student

A bit of a controversial topic but an interesting one at that so let’s go with it…

Whatever your opinions on our boozy nation, and let’s face it it’s a subject that will undoubtedly divide the public, there is no denying alcohol is something that most of us will come in to contact with on a weekly, maybe even daily basis!

The thing I want to talk about though isn’t the crazy things people do under the influence, the vulnerability of an intoxicated person, the health risks that all come with over indulging on the good stuff, that’s a whole another story in itself, no I want to talk about the price of alcohol and the impact it has.

Is it really ethical for big companies, whether its bars or clubs or even supermarkets, to be selling cut-price alcohol for their own gain to our ever increasing generation of binge drinkers? Is it morally right? And what would happen if companies went against the grain and increased the price of their ‘dirt cheap’ booze? Would it have an effect on the amount people consume? So many questions…

In my opinion, and from past experience of being a poor student, people will look for the cheapest alcohol they can get their hands on in order to have a good time, the aim quite simply is, how do say it? To get trolleyed? Battered? Smashed? Off their face? Hammered? The price is the main pull-factor for many.

Many of the faces behind the decisions to sell cheap alcohol will have families of their own, children of their own. I question how these people can make such decisions when they know the consequences these actions are more than likely going to have. It was reported that in the UK alone, in 2014 there were over 8,500 alcohol-related deaths and even more seriously ill. That’s a huge figure, and a huge strain on public healthcare that didn’t need to happen.

In 2010, supermarket giants Tesco, became the first supermarket to ban ‘cut-price’ alcohol, a decision that encouraged spilt reactions. Many of their competitors were believed to feel the move would be like committing ‘commercial suicide’. Soon after Tesco’s bold statement, the government bought in new measures that made it illegal for supermarkets to sell alcohol for less than they buy it in for. However some campaigners believe this new law will only have an impact on a mere 1% of products sold in these supermarkets. So what do you think? Is that small change enough to make a difference? By looking at statistics, it would appear not, in the year after this new legislation was bought in alcohol-related deaths actually increased from the previous year.

Cheap booze

This small change introduced by the government doesn’t seem to be enough to make the much needed difference just yet. As I’ve mentioned previously, it isn’t just supermarkets that are selling alcohol for pennies, clubs are enticing party goers with drinks for as little as 89p! 89p for an alcoholic beverage, that’s less than a bottle of water! What kind of a message is that giving out? Let’s face it, clubs aren’t going to change their ways, why would they, it makes them huge amounts of money each year. So if we can’t make the needed changes via the businesses, does the answer lie with educating the consumer instead?

Cheap alcohol

On flip side however, you could argue that why should the other half of the nation, the sensible drinkers if you like, the drinkers that know their limits, know the risks and are aware of their recommended daily intake of alcohol, essentially be punished and forced to pay higher prices for their relaxing glass of red with their dinner or their vodka and soda on a Friday night?

Who knows the right answer, with this topic I think it isn’t a case of right and wrong, it’ll be different for everyone. And therefore, the big booze debate lives on….

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve Green says:

    Hi Emily, I think for most people this is purely a matter of perspective. Most adults drink alcohol, and so are happy that the supermarkets keep their prices low.
    The supermarkets are happy that the cheap alcohol brings shoppers into the stores, shoppers who of course tend to buy other items while they are in there too.
    I think that the question of morality doesn’t actually come into most people’s line of thinking concerning the price of the alcohol that is on sale.
    After finally admitting to myself that I had an alcohol problem I gave up drinking several months ago, and intend to stay alcohol free for the rest of my life, but even though I no longer buy alcohol I still find it difficult to make a moral judgement about the loss-leader prices that the supermarkets charge.
    When I was young, there was no such thing as cheap supermarket booze, yet anyone who wished to, still managed to find the money to get drunk on a regular basis (possibly at the cost of other areas of their budget), so even if the supermarkets said “Yeah, we’re doing an immoral thing here selling this booze so cheap, we’ll treble the price.” anyone who has the wish, or the compulsion to get drunk regularly still will.

    I would be very surprised if legislation to massively increase the price of alcohol across the board would have a great impact on the binge drinkers or alcoholics, if they want the product then they will find a way to afford it.

    Sorry this doesn’t really answer your question of morality, but I felt I would like to add my thoughts to the debate.

    Best wishes.
    Steve Green.

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    1. Thanks Steve, it’s so great to hear other people’s opinions.
      Thank you for taking the time to reply and i think it’s very admirable what you are doing and deciding to go t-total.
      Yes I agree with you, it totally is perspective. Everyone, the consumer (even consumer to consumer), the supermarket, the government, everyone has a different view on this matter. But that’s why I think it’s so interesting to discuss it.
      I also have to you’re right saying if someone wants to get drunk, putting the price up won’t stop them. That’s why maybe I was thinking people need to be educated more on the consequences, it’s a tricky subject and one that I don’t think has an absolute answer!

      Best wishes
      Emily

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  2. Boris says:

    I think it’s impossible to talk about cheap alcohol and the morality of those selling it without talking about the health and well-being of society. Alcohol is one of the biggest contributor drugs to the unhealthy lifestyle and obesity of the general population, poor management of mental illness and domestic violence. And of course there are the horrendous outcomes of drink driving. These companies are contributing to these social issues by allowing people to drink more excessively then they have done before. While people will always find a way to buy alcohol if they want to, having such low prices allows them to buy more than then they might have. As a drinker of alcohol I enjoy cheaper prices but there are so many people that cant make good choices about alcohol. Unfortunately their choices effect everyone around them….I think these companies have a social obligation to the general public because they are participating within our society.

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  3. Thanks for your comment, i do agree with you. We live in a terrifying society nowadays. I also agree that the supermarkets have a social responsibility, yet unfortunately many don’t seem to it through their ‘business glasses’. I don’t know what the answer is as you say even if the supermarkets increased their prices people would find away to drink excessively. Perhaps better education into the impacts excessive drinking can have on your behaviour and your body?

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  4. Brenda says:

    I think that those who are hell bent on ‘escaping’ through alcohol will do it whatever the cost!

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  5. Thank you for the comment Brenda. I do agree with you, and like i’ve said if someone really wants to get drunk then they will find a way. I think more needs to be done firstly, to stop cut-price alcohol being so readily available, secondly to help people with rely on this alcohol and thirdly to educate people more about the impact it can have on your mind and body.

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