back to article Doc-in-chief targets 'passive drinking' with price hike

Government chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson has gone ahead and demanded the government jack up the price of alcohol to 50 pence a unit. Donaldson made the call this morning despite a weekend of ministerial insistences that the government had no intention of doing any such thing to a population already punch drunk from …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Mind your own business

    Its about time doctors were reminded that their job is to inform you about potential health risks and patch you up when things go wrong. It is not their job to dictate to you what you can and can't do with your own body.

    Heart because it has been proven that sensible drinking is beneficial to your heart

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What the hell is.....

    ....passive drinking? Getting someone else to pour it down your neck?

    Strewth! These bloody doctors need to be told to stop being killjoys.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Hiking the price has worked so well for cigarettes hasn't it?

    er Nope. Just look at the number of youngsters puffing away.

    Well hiking alcohol prices is completely different isn't it? No it's not.

    It's been done in certain scandanavian countries and it's resulted in a take off in home brew and illicit alcohol sales thats increased consumption. Some people have gone blind from drinking wood alcohol and zounds! Look at the increase in the suicide rate. It may also lead to more people trying to get off their face in other more harmful ways.

    Truly the law of unintended consequences at work!

    and for me the killer argument. Why the phoney baloney health concern should result in more tax take? Why should us responsible people pay more due to the irresponsible wee heads out there!


  4. Simon

    First was the smokers...

    Now its the boozers and the junk food eaters.

    The Goverment hires people to pull figures and numbers out their asses, then they can prevent us from doing things that are personal life-style choices.

    The people who are really drinking too much, the *Proper* alcoholics not just the majority of us who ignore the stupids units thing arn't going to be saved regardless. If they arn't hooked on drink they would be hooked on some other drug.

    Oh well, even more pubs are going to go bust. Once they have phased out every form of guilty pleasure are they going to phase out boredom next?

    We are all going to be perfectly healthy (Well apart from the people I mentioned above who are still going to continue to drink) and we can all live long and dull lives...

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Nothing else left to do.

    It's time to ban drinking in Pubs.......

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He knows better than you

    Not only does he know better, you cannot be trusted to listen to what he's saying, evaluate your own life choices and decide for yourself. He is soooo smart and you are sooooo stupid! So you need to have the choice taken away from you.

    And don't ask anyone to explain how this is handled abroad where a bottle of wine costs a Euro and yet somehow binge drinking isn't a problem. He says this is the solution and if his immense mind cannot see an alternative then he must be right!

    Either that, or he's a narrow minded f*ckwit incapable of understanding the wider social problem and instead he's simply tackling one symptom. But no, that can't be true, he probably wears a white coat, so he must be a scientists or something.

  7. Maurice Shakeshaft

    Hang on a minute...

    I've never passively drunk in my entire drinking life - unless you count sea water or swimming baths - and I certainly take a very active interest in my alcohol consumption. What is meant by the nonsense phrase "passive drinking"? Sounds silly to me. What proportion of the 50p/unit would go to HMRC?

    It is a real shame that some of the good sense in his report will get lost in the blather around 50p/unit. But, is there anything in it....

  8. Paul

    passive drinking my arse.

    So if I'm shot several times in the head whilst minding my own business I'm a victim of passive lead poising am I?

  9. alan

    Nice Idea, Bad Plan

    "Donaldson's annual report demanded that the UK recognise the effect of "passive drinking on society" and called for a shift in social attitudes "so that being drunk is no longer an aim of drinking nor socially acceptable"."

    That I agree with. But just stick a big tax rise on alcohol, I am assuming here the gov keeps the cash and not tescos, does not tackle the problem and will not change the attitudes or behaviour of the people doing the drinking.

    Please if you want to control what a small minority of the population are doing, which is destructive, then do it with out punishing the rest of us.

  10. lIsRT

    I wonder if this will work...

    If they end up taxing alcohol based on the actual number of moles of ethanol in a drink, it would at least be more logical than taxing it based on a percentage of the price; and it's something that wouldn't affect me too much.

    To be honest, I'd rather they dropped the hypocrisy and apply the A/B/C classification to alcohol and see which one it ends up as.

  11. Colin Millar

    Passive dumbing down

    WTF is passive drinking? Are people spilling drinks into the mouths of people who don't choose to drink?

    Someone calling themselves a scientist should know better - of course - he is a government sponsored scientist so how good can he be? He's such a good scientist that he proposes a simplistic response to a massively complex social problem - he probably fixes his sensitive electrical equipment by whacking it.

    Maybe someone should point out to him how well prohibition worked out for everyone - and the war on drugs - hows that going these days?

    No wonder the Govt told him to get stuffed - 'introduced a regressive tax to allow smugglers to more widely participate in the benefits of our economy' probably isn't a good line on a politicians CV

  12. Tim Spence


    "the average UK adult now glugging the equivalent of 120 bottles of wine a year."

    Pure and utter bollocks. The *average* UK adult is drinking, on their own, a clear 2 bottles of wine a week? I don't know anyone amongst my friends and family who drink anything near that, which means by the laws of averages there must be small but drunk minority who are drinking an order of magnitude more than that.

    I don't believe it. After all, 96.3% of statistics are made up on the spot.

  13. Richard

    Bugger off!

    If I want to buy a bottle of Sainsbury's finest Bulgarian Merlot to quaff of a weekend, I don't want to be spending more than £4. So bugger off and let me be.

    Also, how can taxes be used to apply a minimum? Could they apply a sliding tax scale, depending on the current cost of a product? Or would they just apply an additional fixed amount to the existing price? If so, spirits would cost the earth.

  14. Lionel Baden

    oh well

    At least this will help boost the profits of the dover port ferry compainies and the koffers of the french wholesalers near calais

    I for one will be travelling there to get as much beer as i can

    oh yeah and fags

    Mines the one with the passport in the pocket

  15. Anonymous Coward

    i know...

    lets price out the only thing that makes living in modern Britain bearable.

    *or* lets create a cheap government booze and call it 'Victory Gin' now, i am sure i have read something similar that was based on the current labour government.... cannot remember for the life of me what its called.



  16. Chris Collins


    The temperance movement rides again. My issue with these people (he's just one of these advocates) is if they want to limit drinking problems and they clearly have spare cash then why don't they just donate their money to alcohol charities? Clearly they're willing to pay more.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    "we don't want to punish the majority for the sins of the minority"

    hell, news to me, they've been doing that for years


  18. Tim Robson

    Is that all?

    So, doctors recommended that the average adult drinks 1-3 glasses of wine daily (depending on sex, height, weight, etc). That works out to around 700 drinks a year, assuming you're going for just under two on your average day, or assuming that Monday-Thursday you're drinking one, and Friday-Sunday you're drinking three. A typical bottle of wine (750 ml) holds about 5 glasses worth of booze. So, that means that the average person in the Uk is getting in ~600 glasses a year. Surely this head doctor should be calling for an overall increase in consumption, in order to get to the suggested serving?

  19. Michael

    So, as it's trying to cut down on alcoholism

    rather than just ruin everybody's evening, I assume the same price hike would be applied across the board to all the desperate alchy's friends like mouthwash?

    I mean, a 500ml bottle of mouthwash must be a good 10-12 units.

  20. Pete Silver badge

    prohibition by stealth.

    Well you can't say they don't learn.

    Whereas the yanks just came up with an outright ban (in response to some "do-gooders", who thought they knew better than everyone else), the brits seem to be going down the same road, for the same reasons, egged on by the same moralising, superior-minded types but in a slower, sneakier way.

    Rather than just come out and say "booze is bad", they are planning to use the gently-gently approach, that has already made a pariah out of anyone who dares light-up, is intent on turning anyone with a camera into a self-proclaimed pervert and is well on the way to persuading the people (and has already managed that with the police) that an individual who doesn't fit within strict and narrowing lines of what's "normal" behaviour must, logically therefore be a terrorist - ill-deserving of any rights whatsoever.

    Further, such huge changes in the way we (are forced to) live, come about "for our own good", although we are never asked for our opinions, nor have the chance to say "no" to these initiatives. Our democratically elected overlords take the one choice we make every 5 years and use this as carte-blanche to henceforth do whatever the hell they please - all in the name of democracy.

    I'm so glad I live in a free country, god knows how others manage.

  21. fajensen

    Worthy of a reward:

    I suggest the Molotov Price: A hand-delivered bottle of cheap vodka, a cork and a storm-match!

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Passive drinking?!?!

    EPIC FAIL!!!!!11!!!!!11!!!!!

    Sorry, I thought that was the only way of expressing how moronic that term is.

  23. TeeCee Gold badge

    Ok, I'll bite.

    WTF is "passive drinking"?

    "Passive smoking" I understand. Someone else smokes and you inhale the smoke by sitting close by. Are they trying to say that I can now get wankered 'cos someone else nearby is in wrist-turning overdrive?

    If so, how would the fact that said person is paying more for the privilege of getting trolleyed have a positive effect?

  24. Luther Blissett

    Passive thinking

    Is far more dangerous to society.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Yeah! Extra Taxes!

    Thats always worked well in the past! *sarcasm*

    *\. Putting a tax on breathing out, because we need to lower CO2 Emissions.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Potential wine lake

    Could have a devastating effect on the economies of our wine-growing neighbours - I won't be buying my fave T*sco Bulgarian Merlot if it goes up to Burgundy prices from its present affordable 3.19 per botle. This will, by my reckoning, leave them with a sizeable wine lake even if no-one else makes the same decision ...

  27. Chris Miller
    Thumb Down

    Passive drinking

    In order to get anywhere close to justifying this pernicious tosh, 'Sir' Liam has to throw in lots of extra 'costs' to society: public drunkenness, deaths and injuries due to driving while intoxicated, family abuse while drunk, etc. The only problem is that, last time I checked, all these were already illegal. Perhaps a case for enforcing existing laws rather than penalise society as a whole? Just a thought.

    BTW I love the whole 'passive drinking' thing. A weasel phrase clearly designed to ride on the back of the 'passive smoking' campaign. Watch out for 'inebriation denial', coming your way soon.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    I'm struggling

    to see the IT angle. Mind you, as lunch time has just ended, I'm struggling to stand up. What happens if I press this button?

  29. Anonymous Coward

    and by that logic...

    ...responsible teetotallers should not have to pick up the tab for the irresponsible majority.

    Can I pay less tax, please?


  30. Hombre sin nombre

    Every time

    you think they've come up with the perfect example of a nanny state policy, they make up a better one.

  31. Peter Kay

    'price fixing by the drinks industry'

    Am I missing the point? The proposal is for the government to fix drinks prices based on the number of units, so it's minimum price fixing by the government, not the industry. To work, it would of course have to apply only to consumers, rather than trade though.

    Personally I don't have a problem with that in theory - decent alcohol always costs more than 50p per unit.

    That, however, is the problem. This really only targets the cheapest, shittest tramp juice drunk by the stupid, the desperate and a few students. If you're lucky it might stop some of the younger teens over indulging, but as soon as they get older with a bit more cash they'll be busy getting smashed on blue wkd (which, note, is not even *close* to the 50p/unit barrier). Alternatively, you'll find people (people? Let's be specific here : 15 year olds, doley chavs and tramps) get smashed less frequently on higher quality alcohol, or more probably, searching out black market alcohol or moonshine - which really isn't a good idea.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    they can start printing extreme pr0n on beer bottles, like they do on fag packets. Now they're the only ones legally entitled to do it of course.

  33. Maty

    How much ...

    was it the govt's bright idea on early closing times in earlier decades that brought about the British attitude that the way to drink is to get as much alcohol down your neck in the shortest possible time?

    At some point, it may occur to the government that social engineering is not something that politicians should attempt.

  34. Anonymous Coward


    So, in the governments nanny state fantasy where all bad things are banned, the entire population is tea total, non smoking, five fruit and veg a day eating, exercise freaks who live to a ripe old age.

    How the hell do they plan to deal with that pension deficit then?

    Or will Or will New Britannia's policy be work till you drop?

    The current state pension system is little more than a nearly bankrupt dodgy pyramid scheme, the government should be encouraging smoking/drinking/ all manner of other things that should ensure you are never in a position to try to collect a pension, if they really push it a sudden reduction in the population could be just the ticket to solve the current unemployment issues too.

  35. Pete James

    @ Maty

    The British began the love affair with binge drinking long before the restricted opening hours were introduced.

  36. Eden
    Thumb Up


    Has no one seen the GEINUS! of this man!

    They force this on so everyone has to go to France for their booze and fags but for that you need your Passport, but wait, no it needs an ID card too.

    Suddenly EVERYONE wants an ID card to go off and get cheap booze!

    Wackies comment that everyone wants an ID card comes true and ID cards fly off the shelves!!

    GENIUS!!...evil genius...but genius never the less

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Running with Scissors

    Let's not forget these are the same fuckwits that wanted to ban all pointy knives a while back, (because you're all too cretinous not to cut yourselves with them).

  38. Matt Eagles

    @Tim Spence

    Are you so utterly self absorbed that you imagine that you and your friends represent the majority of the UK?

    On a secondary note places that would definately suffer from a potential price increase on alcohol per unit would be military messes, where squaddies can blow off steam at around £1 a pint; and the Houses of Parliament, where some MPs chug down their weekly 21 units inbetween voting, at a discount price.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh Dear

    Oh Dear. Both to minimum pricing (which has not got a cat in hell's chance of entering legislation) and at some of the comments here.

    Some important points, in no particular order:

    -The minimum price per unit will be enforced by a per unit tax - the money will go to the government. Presumably for the health service in the same way road / fuel tax goes to pay for the upkeep of the highways*

    -There will obviously need to be some legislation to prevent anyone selling below that level.

    -Pubs should arguably not be affected. I don't know about you but where I live a pint is at least £2 except for JD Wetherspoons and some happy hours type promotions. "Normal" drinkers don't drink [the cheap beer] in Wetherspoons or during happy hours anyway.

    -Normal spirits drinkers would be hammered. 28 units in a 70C bottle of 40% spirit. That's £14 minimum for a bottle that now could cost between about £8 (cheap own brand) and £10-11 (Bells, Teachers, etc.).

    -Gordon Brown has already said he doesn't like the idea. This looks like standard New labour leak and learn** policy making with a cynical dose of "Gordon to the rescue saving your booze / boozer" on top.

    -Passive smoking is where your waste products from ciggies affects others, so is passive drinking an increase in drunken hoodies pissing on innocent passers by?

    *It doesn't, they just say it does. But they lie. Lie like dogs. Or politicians, which is worse.

    ** Leak a proposal and see how the press treat it. If the press like it then it was always policy and damn those naughty leakers, why, if they were opposition politicians they'd be arrested for that!!! If the press are against it then it was never a policy, never would have been and it must be just leaking from disaffected civil servants who are lying. Lying like dogs. or politicians which is, oh, wait. Nevermind. Dogs, yes dogs. Lying like dogs.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Matt Eagles

    Do you honestly believe that any minimum pricing would apply to the bars in the Houses of Parliament? Any such law introduced would have a get out clause stuffed in there somewhere.

    It's a moot point anyway, given this has been dismissed by GB Clown.

  41. this

    Poll Tax revisited

    This suggestion is about as sensible (and fair) as the poll tax.

    I hope the good doctor is a smarter doctor than economist (or politician!).

  42. Graham Marsden

    Of course...

    ... if this had been greeted positively, you just *know* that El Gordo Brown and Darling Alastair would have been rubbing their hands in glee at the extra tax revenue it would have gained them...

  43. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Passive drinking??

    What the hell is "Passive drinking"???

    and no, there is no other reason for drinking other than getting drunk, if it was good enough for every civilisation in the last 5000 years, its good enough for us

  44. Bad Beaver

    What is passive drinking?

    Please explain. I always try and make it an "active" thing.

    Just another case where someone clearly misunderstood what is necessary to keep the working masses calm and happy.

  45. Gilbert Wham

    The reason we drink so much... that it's fucking horrible here. Raising the cost of booze won't improve the situation one jot, believe me.

  46. Bad Beaver
    Thumb Up

    @ Gilbert Wham


  47. Anonymous Coward

    Buy a pack of beer...

    ...and get a Sunday joint for free.

    Them laws are gonna have to be pretty tight to stop the supermarkets ignoring them.

  48. Kevin Burges
    Thumb Up

    bring it on

    For those saying it's all tax hikes by the government - I don't think that'd be the case at all. They're just saying it can't be sold for less than X. I would assume they still get the same percentage in tax that they do now, but the suppliers (read: brewers) just have to charge more. This way everyone with a good product wins. Those that lose are the brewers that are only managing to sell because their beer tastes like shit, and people won't pay more for. Once they can't make a living off selling cheap crap on the cheap they'll be forced to either make good beer or go out of business. Bring on that day.

  49. Kevin Burges
    Thumb Up

    i almost forgot to say...

    my only complaint is that it's as low as 50p/unit. I'd have gone for more like 75.

  50. Paul


    @ and by that logic... 15:02

    If you are teetotal then , ceteris parabus, you will already be paying less tax/duty. If you can find data that shows that drinking/smoking/motoring generate less govt income than they consume I'd like to see it. For what it's worth, a major motivation of late C19 abstinence movements in Britain was to deny the govt its major source of revenue from the working classes, who many felt were paying a disproprtionately high percentage of their meagre income in stealth taxes. Just like now.

  51. Phil Parker

    It's a good idea that will never happen.

    At present if you shop in a supermarket you are subsidising all those buying any alcohol being sold for less than the cost price. Simply stopping this, which is effectivly what is being suggested, cannot be a bad thing.

    A happy side effect would be reducing the price differential between Tesco and pubs. The later wouldn't shed customers to "home binging". Just look at the numbers head into town at 10:30 or later in the evening having tanked up at home.

    But I'd imagine the boss of Tesco has already been on the 'phone to Gorden a told him that this is a bad idea. GB has capitulated imediatly 'cos he's a waste of space.

  52. Gianni Straniero

    Passive drinking

    In case anyone is wondering, "passive drinking" is what mechanics do at motorsports events when their driver sprays them with champagne.

    It's high time this practice were banned. What sort of example does it set? Drinking and driving has been illegal for years, yet these guys think they're above the law.

    It really does go to show you can't be too careful.

  53. Youngdog

    In my best Daniel Day-Lewis voice..

    Passive Drinking Eli! Passive drinking my Boy!

    If you have a beer and I have a beer and I have a straw and my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your beer. I drink your beer!


  54. Paul

    Buy this £5 bottle of wine......

    ...and get 150 loyalty points.

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