The cost of Britain's 'booze culture'

22 Mar 2010 00:00:00.000

PA 57/10

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.


— Ends —


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.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Martin Hagger on +44(0)115 846 7929 martin.hagger@nottingham.ac.uk
Andrew Burden

Andrew Burden - Digital Communications Manager

Email: andrew.burden@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8313 Location: University Park

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