22 Mar 2010 00:00:00.000
How will people react to calls for a minimum price on alcohol?
A University of Nottingham expert is leading a research group which will investigate the question and advise government on the proposal, which aims to reduce the level of binge drinking in the UK.
The research, funded by the Alcohol Education and Research Council, will focus on public opinion, of both the issue of binge drinking and the idea of imposing a minimum price on alcohol.
Will the policy be acceptable to the British public, and how will the authorities promote it?
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Principal investigator Dr Martin Hagger from the School of Psychology believes that understanding this issue is a crucial factor in tackling the problem: “There is no argument that binge drinking in the UK needs to be addressed,” he says.
“Introducing a minimum price on the sale of alcohol may be one way of dealing with it, but the authorities need to be sure it will work, and to achieve this we need to build an accurate and relevant picture of what people really think.”
Earlier this year 13 directors of public health sent an open letter to ministers calling for action on what they believe is cheap alcohol. The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has already stated that he won't rule out introducing a minimum price for alcohol, but warned it would not be the sole solution to the problem of binge drinking in the UK.
It is fully expected that such a policy would be opposed by the public, particularly at a time when financial pressures are already significant, but Dr Hagger believes it is a policy that may be effective.
“This is the first time a project of this kind has focused on public attitudes to alcohol and minimum pricing. Any legislative measure to deal with the problem would be better able to achieve its aims if these attitudes are understood.”
Despite the serious health risks, people are drinking above the recommended daily alcohol limit, and some blame the low price of alcohol.
“This may or may not be the case,” Dr Hagger adds, “ but until further research like this is carried out, placing blame solely on the price of alcohol would be premature”.
“The public may support or oppose the introduction of a minimum price, but we need to know more on the motives and reasons and it is therefore important we canvass public feeling on the issue.”
Other key questions will include the conditions likely to increase the acceptability of measures indicated in the policy and compare them to attitudes and beliefs towards other price controls.
Co-researchers on the project are: Prof Justine Schneider from The University of Nottingham; Prof Rob Baggott, De Montfort University, Leicester and Dr Gillian Penny, University of Northampton.
The project will collect data from a wide range of people from different backgrounds in the Nottingham region using focus groups over the next nine months.
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Notes to editors
: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
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