Drinkers can buy a week's ration of alcohol for under £3, study finds

Drinkers can buy a week’s ration of alcohol for same price as a high street cup of coffee- causing ‘colossal’ harm to the nation, doctors warn

  • Researchers examined the price of alcohol in shops across the United Kingdom
  • They found the cheapest booze was in England which has no minimum pricing
  • Doctors recommend people consume no more than 14 units of alcohol  weekly
  • This is about six pints of beer or six medium glasses of wine regularly per week
  • Based on prices found by researchers, this can cost as little as £2.68 each week 

A weekly ‘ration’ of booze – about six pints of beer – can be purchased for the same price as a high street coffee , causing ‘colossal harm’ to the nation, warn doctors.

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK said that it is possible to buy 14 units of alcohol for just £2.68 – or the price of a cup of coffee from many high street chains. 

The recommended amount of alcohol per week is 14 units for men and women – which is equivalent to about six pints of beer or six medium glasses of wine.  

The alliance, a coalition of over 50 organisations including medical colleges and health charities and they want more done to tackle cheap, high strength alcohol.  

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK said that it is possible to buy 14 units of alcohol for just £2.68 – or the price of a cup of coffee from many high street chains. Stock image

As part of a new study into the impact of cheap booze, researchers for the alliance visited shops and supermarkets across England, Wales and Scotland.

They said that the cheapest products were found in England – the only nation in Britain not to have a minimum unit price of alcohol of 50p.

Some cider products were found to be just 19p per unit, according to the authors, with booze at that price often drunk by the most vulnerable groups.

Combined, to they could buy a week’s supply of alcohol – 14 units – for £2.68 – which is comparable to a cappuccino or latte at a high street coffee chain.

They found that a large latte or cappuccino at Starbucks cost £2.85, at Caffe Nero it was £2.75 and £2.65 at Costa Coffee – so in most cases a week’s supply of booze was cheaper than a single coffee from a high street chain.

The alliance called on the government to commit to tackling cheap, high-strength alcohol in its review of the duty system – and introduce minimum pricing. 

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said the low price of high strength alcohol ’causes colossal damage to the health of our nation.’

‘Alcohol is linked to 80 deaths in the UK every day, as well as seven types of cancer and stroke,’ explained Sir Ian.

As part of a new study into the impact of cheap alcohol, researchers visited shops and supermarkets across England, Wales and Scotland and found buying enough booze to meet the 14 unit weekly limit cost the same as a high street coffee

‘To tackle the harm alcohol causes, we need to urgently address its price. Alcohol duty is currently too low to cover the costs of alcohol harm to our society.

‘Public Health England estimates that alcohol costs the UK at least £27 billion a year. Yet over the past five years, alcohol duty has raised just £10.5-£12.1 billion annually.


Cider was the cheapest available product in England and is being sold for as little as 19p per unit of alcohol, according to the researchers.

This means that consumers can reach the weekly low-risk drinking guideline of 14 units of alcohol for just £2.68.

One bottle of the cheapest cider contains more alcohol than eight pints of beer – and costs 8p less than a single pint in a pub.

For the price of a standard cinema ticket (£7.11), you could buy two bottles of wine, containing 19.5 units, and have 13p change leftover.

A 1-litre bottle of vodka, which contains 37.5 units, is cheaper than a large pizza at Dominos (£14.99).

Researchers described alcohol in England as being sold at ‘pocket money prices’ and causes ‘colossal damage’ to the nation.

‘To pay for the costs to society that alcohol imposes, stronger drinks should be taxed more per unit of alcohol,’ he said.

‘With alcohol-related hospital admissions at record highs, and liver disease rates on the rise, we simply cannot afford alcohol remaining at such low prices.’

Dr Katherine Severi, chief executive at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, added that alcohol was currently priced at ‘pocket money’ levels.

‘Pocket money-priced drinks are fuelling rates of harm amongst some of our most vulnerable communities, with strong white ciders in particular proving lethal.

‘Now, more than ever, we need to be fighting fit as a nation and looking to reduce the additional burden on the NHS and emergency services caused by cheap alcohol,’ said Severi.

A spokesman for industry body the Alcohol Information Partnership said the overwhelming majority of alcohol was sold at responsible prices.

‘The examples quoted are incredibly rare and we do not condone alcohol being sold at this price,’ the spokesman added.

‘We know that not only are people drinking less now, when they do drink they are increasingly buying better quality products.

‘The big growth area in alcohol in the UK is in super-premium spirits and not cheap products such as this report suggests.’ 

The World Health Organisation recommends an increase to the price of alcohol as one of the most cost-effective policies to reduce alcohol harm.

This seems to be supported by the public. A YouGov that found 56 per cent of people support an increase in alcohol taxes if the money raised goes into funding public services impacted by alcohol use such as the NHS and police.

The report has been published by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK. 


One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.

The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.

To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.


0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.

Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.

8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).

16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.

20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.

Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.

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