THE OLD UN-RELIABLES
For this particular admirer of good beer there is no comparison between Heineken and Carlsberg. The Danes beat the Dutch hands down in this arena in my opinion and I would prefer to receive one free pint of Carlsberg instead of three Heinekens.
Recently in Dublin I was charged €5.60 for Carlsberg and the damned Heineken was around the same. My local boozer in Cork has their own brewery and produce a red lager called 'Vienna' at €3.65 a pint. When at home then I enjoy that Vienna lager and get value for money.
However, as a smoker, the introduction of the ban changed my habits completely. Apparently unwanted in the public house I considered quitting the drink completely. Then I took notice of the prices for take-away beers in the supermarkets and off-licenses and was knocked sideways. At the time the price of the pub pint had passed €3.00 but a tin of same could be bought for 80c in these places. You could get six of them for €4.80 and that constitutes a good night on the beer in any man's language. The stricter enforcement of drink driving laws accompanied by the lowering of the legal limits cemented my decision not to go out too often.
Coupled with legally imported tobacco from the EU at a quarter of the price here I found that in a very short time I was in quids. At the end of any given week I had more cash in my pocket than I'd ever had. I found it odd too that when the price of alcohol and tobacco were not a consideration I actually began to cut down on my consumption of both. This is anti-intuitive I know but that's what happened. As a result, I always have plenty of beer and tobacco at home but I'm more discerning now about when I take either.
In a capitalist democracy the markets decide the price of goods in all sectors. If demand is strong then price goes up and vice versa. But tobacco and alcohol are treated differently and we are told this is because of health concerns. I don't think so though. Just look at the state of the hospitals to see how much they care about your health. The combined tax take on both booze and fags runs to nearly four billion each year because the taxation applied is just so high. There is steady demand for both too so that income is pretty much guaranteed. Each time successive Governments here have increased the price through taxation increases, they have predicted an increase in income for the Exchequer but they have been wrong each time as well. Is my own experience a microcosm of what is happening nationally?
But politicians are always tinkering with society on the basis of their feigned concern for all of us. Those shaggers in Public Health have been bleating in their ears that we are all at home binge drinking instead of behaving ourselves, something that is completely untrue of course. But for a politician it is a glorious reason to extort more money from us, which is about the only thing that really excites them. So at the behest of a faceless Public Health, they are discussing the new Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. In amongst the waffle of this proposed bill is the provision that the Minister for Health can increase the minimum price per gram of alcohol that can be charged in Ireland. That folks is what this is actually all about.
The Journal took a look at the current state of affairs and applied the minimum pricing rule to the existing prices. A 12-pack of cans of Heineken is on sale for €20 but would need to cost at least €20.35 under the new legislation. A 12 pack of cans of Guinness, at €18, would need to cost at least €19.90 under minimum pricing. A bottle of Huzzar vodka, above the brands of Absolut is on sale for €19 but it would need to €20 under the proposed law. However, the Journal does point out that, "It is the sale of beers at supermarkets and off licenses where this will have a major impact." You can read how they do the calculations in the article but what it comes down to is, "Each can of beer would then be required to cost at least €1.97." And remember too the added 10 cent is the current rate. Like any tax, the rate can be increased or doubled at the stroke of a pen in the future.
Last December my local supermarket ran a promotion on Carlsberg 500ml tins. They offered a slab of 24 for €20 and I bought two of them for €40. Under minimum pricing next Christmas the same thing will cost a minimum of €94.56 by law. That is pure and unadulterated extortion. And for the wine drinker one example given is a 750ml bottle of red wine (12%), currently listed for sale at €4.99. This would be required to cost at least €7.10.
Hidden in all of this is the deliberate targeting of the lowest priced lagers, popular with the poor and working classes. I do not know the names of the brands involved but I do know there is a beer called Dutch Gold and it is the single cheapest tin in my local off-license. It is also the one sold in the most volume in this working class area. Its customers view this horrible beer as the only chink of joy they see in an otherwise pointless hopeless week but minimum pricing will soon take that away from them for good. And when you think about it, it is the six-figure salaried individuals who are behind this move. Nobody in politics, public health or medicine will be affected in any way by the proposed law whether they are out and out piss-heads in their own lavish homes or not because they will always have the money in their pockets to buy whatever they like. So what should be done.
There is an interesting talking point this morning which suggests a new way of dealing with speeding fines. "New proposals, which are at the “early stages” of discussion, would see fines issued on the basis of the driver’s income and not a flat fee across the board as is currently the case. That would be an equitable way of dealing with the fine for drinking alcohol as well. A premium price for the booze is a straight fine on your pleasure and so it should be priced according to your means to pay. Pensioners and the unemployed should be able to produce the relevant documentation at point of purchase and get it at half price. Conversely politicians and medical experts would pay twice as much as they currently do. If those people truly believe the drivel they utter on the subject then I can't see them having a problem with it, can you? I mean, it's only looking after their health, isn't it? Indeed given that their income is multiple times that of the people they currently want to penalize, the price they might end up paying for their vintage port could be astronomical. If the theory that high price is a deterrent to purchase, (and that is the justification for minimum pricing), then the more wealthy and the well off will need a much larger deterrent.
I could be onto something here.