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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 December 2007, 00:19 GMT
Shop alcohol offers 'unethical'
By Mona McAlinden
BBC Scotland news website

Supermarkets have been branded "unethical" by alcohol charities and doctors' leaders for offering cut-price deals on drink over the festive season.

Alcohol Focus Scotland and the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland said "deep discounting" by major retailers leads to binge drinking.

Alcohol on a supermarket shelf
Britain has the third highest levels of duty on wine in Europe

The Scottish Government said it would ban "irresponsible" off-sales deals.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said the price of alcohol is not a major factor in consumption levels.

Gillian Bell, from the charity Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Alcohol's never been more affordable - it's 62% cheaper now than it was in 1980.

"Supermarkets, particularly at this time year, enter price wars and as soon as you enter the shops, you see a variety of drinks stacked up - all on special offer - that's something we're really concerned about.

"When you can buy beer cheaper than water, that's a major problem and it's not surprising that we're seeing spiralling liver disease rates and alcohol-related deaths."

Six people die from an alcohol-related condition every day in Scotland, while 41,651 people were admitted to hospital because of alcohol in 2006/07.

Ms Bell said: "There's no doubt that the availability of cheap drink is a major factor in rising rates of alcohol-related death and disease.

"Supermarkets are actually using alcohol as a loss leader, which means they're using price promotions on booze to get customers into the store so they'll increase their sales overall.

"We don't think it's ethical to sell alcohol below cost because it's a drug that has the potential to cause a lot of harm."

Dr Sally Winning, a psychiatrist and member of the BMA Scottish Council, said: "Supermarkets have a big role in the amount of alcohol consumed.

"There's evidence to show that deep discounting leads to binge drinking and cheaper drink makes alcohol more accessible for young people."

TNS World Panel, a market research firm, said people in Scotland spent 138.8m on alcohol from supermarkets and off-licenses in the run-up to Christmas and New Year last year.

Kenny MacAskill
It's not right that we still have three for two, or buy 3 bottles for 10 deals in our off-sales and supermarkets
Kenny MacAskill

However, Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the WSTA - which represents supermarkets and off-licenses - said:" I don't think price is a driving factor in how much alcohol people consume.

"Just because someone buys a case of wine, doesn't mean they go home and drink it in its entirety."

He said supermarkets paid the Treasury huge levels of duty on alcohol - 14bn a year.

"There doesn't appear to be any correlation between the levels of taxation and behaviour," he said.

'Abuse of alcohol'

"France's tax on a bottle of wine is 2p and they have a binge drink rate of about 8%, our tax on a bottle of wine is 1.33 and we have a 38% binge drink rate."

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "I think it's time to take a long hard look at our relationship with drink.

"Six Scots die every day from alcohol - our Health Service is overrun, our economy is undermined, and our society devastated by the abuse of alcohol.

"Already our Government has announced that it will ban irresponsible promotions in off-sales.

"It's not right that we still have three for two, or buy 3 bottles for 10 deals in our off-sales and supermarkets encouraging people to buy and drink more than they had intended."

DIARY APPEAL

BBC Scotland news website is looking for volunteers to write an online diary detailing how much alcohol they consume over the festive season. Fill in the form below leaving a phone number in the comments box.

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SEE ALSO
Doctors back alcohol label call
19 Oct 07 |  Scotland
Late-night bars face police costs
29 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Cheap drink offers could be axed
01 Jun 07 |  Scotland
Alcohol abuse 'becoming epidemic'
02 Nov 06 |  Scotland
Climb in alcohol-related deaths
30 Aug 06 |  Scotland

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