16 hours ago
The government’s approach to alcohol has always been incoherent; we can buy alcohol in petrol stations, for example, but it is against the law to drink drive. Its recent designation of off-licences as essential services during the coronavirus pandemic is an extension of this confusion.
There is only one group that absolutely requires alcohol: alcoholics. For those with alcohol dependencies, any abrupt disruption to their intake could be deadly; for the rest of us, alcohol is a luxury. Why, then, has the government made it essential?
Its motives are relatively transparent. It would be out of character for them to prioritise alcoholics, as the services they need to safely detoxify have had their budgets cuts year on year for a decade.
Rather, the move to designate off-licenses as essential retailers is more likely the result of alcohol industry lobbying, which government for some reason finds very hard to resist. The success of their lobbying was already evident in the fact that alcohol is cheaper relative to income than it has ever been, as the industry has kept excise duty low. Evidence is already emerging of the rise in alcohol consumption during this crisis with a surge in sales of over 50%.