Minimum Alcohol Pricing

I had a drink last night. Surprisingly, working in a brewery, we don’t drink all the time. But last night I had one. I still got up for work. I feel great. I didn’t hurt anyone nor spill my beer. I didn’t start a revolution (pity).

Ireland, or rather the FG/Labour government, is ‘considering’ introducing minimum pricing per unit of alcohol as part of a wide range of measures to cut alcohol consumption. It’s the latest step in a long line of steps from a nanny state that bears no responsibility for bailing out bondholders and banks, for scandals, corruption and neglect but is first in line to wag the finger at everybody else on responsible consumption. Once they get this introduced, the next step will be the fat tax, sugar tax, salt tax and breathing tax.

So lets be clear what we are talking about – This has nothing to do with cutting alcohol consumption. If it had, it would be at least ringfenced. But it’s not. It’s just another cynical tax for a state that needs to keep upping what it takes from the people in order to continue handing it over to bondholders who should have been wiped out long ago.

It’s strange that the Health Minister Leo Varadker has plenty of time for Revenue generating measures like this but little time for sick people. Up and down the length and breath of the country, in every town, people are fundraising for sick people. You see, our Government “doesn’t have the money” to treat them, the time to listen to them or does not wish to do so. It’s left to the community to fundraise for them – to send them abroad for treatment that should be paid for by the state. If our government (I use the term loosely) won’t look after our sick in their time of need, what kind of country are we at all? How is it that there is money to compensate failed gambles by bondholders but not enough to send little Brian/Sarah/Timmy for treatment?

The sad reality is that Ireland already taxes alcohol more than most European countries. We are consistently in the top three for taxes levied on alcohol. We are taxed to death on alcohol. VAT and excise duty are already levied at astronomical rates. For every pint you buy, €1.25 is already passed onto the Nanny State (that’s 10 times the level in Germany!). Now they want to tax it even more. It seems that we as a country are not responsible enough to know when, how are where to drink – thankfully, our Nanny State government is here to tell us what we can and can’t do with a glass of beer.

No definitive floor price has been suggested but a reasonable guess would be that in time the MINIMUM price for a bottle of wine could be at least €10.00. So now, for even the crappiest wine you will be obliged to pay €10.00. Piss water beer could be €2.20 a can. Cigarette style warnings will adorn alcoholic products, because, you know, beer has been drunk for thousands of years since before Newgrange and the Pyramids and it’s just a miracle we’ve managed make it the last 5,000 years with beer hanging around. I’m surprised the wheel was even invented.

What difference will it make to Munster Brewery? None. We don’t have the scale to be affected by minimum pricing and neither does any craft brewery operating in Ireland. In fact, it will probably be beneficial to us and craft breweries. But this is a matter of principle. We find it hard to stomach that a nanny state can be so concerned with revenue generation under the guise of health and yet turn a cold back on people who genuinely need the state to help.

It’s a personal thing. I’m a big guy. Thankfully, I’ve enough sense to know when to drink, when not to, when to go home and get up. Last time I checked, I didn’t need the Health Service nor Health Minister to set my alarm clock. It’s called personal responsibility. It seems we’ve lost all sense of it when we allow a Nanny State to control our lives to the point that the flowing conversation with friends has to end at 11pm because, well, that’s what the Nanny State dictates. Do you want a glass of beer at 1am? Tough. Nanny State says you’re not thinking ‘the right way’.

Yes, there are people out there with alcohol problems. Absolutely. There are people out there with fat problems. I don’t support introducing a fat tax no less that I support introducing a sugar tax or salt tax or alcohol consumption tax. What level do we stop at?  At what stage do we assume responsibility for our lives instead of Big Brother watching over us, taking money out of our pockets everytime we dare to have a drink, burger or that extra spoon of sugar in our tea? Isn’t it ironic that the Government is willing to sign up to the Transatlantic Trade Agreement that would allow chlorinated chickens, GM foods and toxic chemicals into food sold here but yet wants to tax you to death you on that bag of chips and beer?

Instead of taxing alcohol, why not a tax on the number of chemicals and artificial additives in food products? Cheap products nearly always have more chemicals and additives – that’s what makes them cheap. Wouldn’t that really be looking after people’s health instead of this cynical tax? Why not tax fluoride and aluminum in our water supplies? Why not tax added artificial sugar in foods and preservatives? Why not do something genuine for once instead of dressing up taxes as fake concern for the people and their alcohol consumption? Instead of mimimum alcohol pricing, tax the level of artificial chemicals in beer.

There is an eery silence from people around this measure. Almost as if they are afraid to peek above the parapet lest they get labelled. So we’ll stand up. This is an unjust tax that has more to do with raising money for government than saving people’s health.

You’d nearly think that the government just wanted us to stay healthy long enough to be productive commodities and then get rid of us quickly once we got sick. But that would be too far fetched.