On this page
Regulation of the price of alcohol is the most cost-effective tool used by governments to address alcohol-related harm, according to the World Health Organisation. Governments use three main methods to regulate the price of alcohol:
- Varying alcohol prices
- Varying alcohol taxes/duties
- Using Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP)
This page includes figures on alcohol pricing in the UK, the level of taxation for each beverage type, how the price of alcohol affects both the level of consumption and the level of various harms, and the impact of different policy measures on those consumption and harms, including evidence in several countries.
Facts and stats
- The average 4% ABV pint of beer costs: £3.64 in the on-trade and £1.24 in the off-trade.
- 43p of the beer price is duty, which represents: 12% of the on-trade retail price; 35% of the off-trade retail price
- VAT is 20% of pre-tax price /17% of post-tax price. Excise duty varies between products, but on average accounts for around 25% of the final price. (Bhattacharya, 2017)
Affordability compared to 1987
- Off-trade beer is 210% more affordable
- Off-trade wine/spirits is 162% more affordable
- On-trade wine/spirits is 41% more affordable
- On-trade beer is 41% more affordable
- The alcohol duty escalator increased duty by 2% above inflation each year between 2008-2013/14. This helped close the increasing gap between the cost of alcohol in the on- and off-trade, potentially helping the hospitality industry (see more here).
Affordability of beer and wine/spirits by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
- As a rule of thumb, for every 1% increase in the price of alcohol, consumption falls by 0.5%
- Two major meta analyses each combining estimates from over 100 studies found:
How does alcohol’s affordability affect consumption? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
- If a duty escalator were introduced in 2020, an estimated 4,710 alcohol-attributable deaths would be averted by 2032, compared with a policy of increasing duties in line with inflation.
How many deaths would be avoided if alcohol duty was increased? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
- If a duty escalator were introduced in 2020, an estimated 160,761 hospital admissions would be averted by 2032, compared with a policy of increasing duties in line with inflation
How many hospital admissions would be avoided if alcohol duty was increased? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
- Nominal alcohol duty – so duty in cash-terms – has steadily increased over time. However, real-terms duty – so duty compared to inflationary increases of other products – is much lower now than in the past
How have alcohol duties changed over time? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
How have real terms alcohol duties changed over time? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
- Minimum alcohol pricing sets a ‘floor price’ below which alcohol cannot be sold. Under minimum unit pricing (MUP) the floor price is set according to the alcohol content of the drink, per unit.
- Minimum pricing is not a tax, and any additional revenue from raising prices goes to retailers rather than the government.
Which countries have adopted minimum alcohol pricing? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
- In Scotland, MUP has reduced deaths wholly attributable to alcohol consumption by 13.4% – equating to 156 deaths every year. The greatest effects were seen amongst the four most socio-economically deprived areas. (PHS, 2023)
- Public Health Scotland found MUP to be associated with a net reduction of 3% in total per-adult sales of pure alcohol in the three years following implementation. (PHS, 2022)
- The reductions in alcohol purchases were greatest among households that were buying the most alcohol pre-MUP. (Wyper, Grant MA, et al. 2023)
How effective is minimum unit pricing? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
Alcohol duty frozen in Autumn Statement: What does this mean?
24th November 2023
Acceptable, accessible and affordable – but at what cost?
15th November 2023
Where next for Minimum Unit Pricing in Scotland?
10th October 2023
The complex reality of minimum unit pricing in Wales
4th July 2023
Can alcohol duties be used to reduce the rate of violence injury?
20th June 2023
Alcohol control policies for everyone?
6th June 2023
How the cost of living crisis affects alcohol harm
18th April 2023
Good news for public health, good news for pubs, and good news for Treasury revenue
16th March 2023