Supermarkets are continuing to slash the price of alcohol despite accusations that bargain booze deals are helping to fuel Britain’s binge drinking crisis.
According to The Daily Telegraph, latest statistics show that in December 25 per cent of all beer sold online at Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Ocado was discounted.
That is a seven per cent increase on the same period last year, despite calls from experts and politicians to curb the sale of cheap alcohol.
Chief medical officers have called for a statutory minimum price per unit of alcohol, warning that cheap prices are linked to drink-related health problems.
Last month the Government pledged to tackle irresponsible drink promotions in pubs and bars.
The Conservatives said they would ban the selling of booze below cost price in supermarkets if they won the forthcoming general election.
Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, told the Telegraph: “Supermarkets pretend to champion the consumer and yet their alcohol price discounting has led to a direct rise in alcohol related health harms and costs to the NHS and police.
“When will the supermarkets realise their use of alcohol as a loss leader is ruining the health of this country and leading to more crime and disorder?”
And Dr Chris Record, a liver disease consultant based in Newcastle, said: “The problem is that alcohol prices have been falling and is now much more affordable than it was a couple of decades ago.
“And if you reduce the price of alcohol suddenly, consumption goes up.”
But retailers denied that cheap booze was a problem. They blamed binge drinking on culture rather than price.
Richard Dodd, of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers are simply competing to offer customers value. They shouldn’t be criticised for doing that.
“Irresponsible drinking is not about price. It’s about culture. We already have some of the highest alcohol taxes in Europe.
“Banning discounts or forcing up prices won’t make a difference. Changing attitudes will and that’s what retailers are engaged in.”
This week it was announced that 24-hour alcohol licensing laws will be cut, but only by three hours.
Council authorities will be able to limit late opening of pubs and clubs across an entire area, but only between the hours of 3am to 6am.