United Kingdom

Beer Is Cheaper Than Water—When You Compare Really Cheap Beer to Expensive Water

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The London Times reports that British anti-alcohol activists and public health officials are angry because "alcohol now costs less than water." Well, to be more accurate, "it is possible to buy beer cheaper than water." Specifically, the grocery store chains Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and Sainsbury's "are among those selling beer at just over 5p per 100ml, " which "contrasts with a typical price of about 8p for 100ml of brand-name mineral water" (emphasis added). The British Medical Association says "it is a real worry that you can buy alcohol cheaper than mineral water." According to the activist group Alcohol Concern, "The evidence shows young people and harmful drinkers are drawn to very cheap alcohol," so "a lot of these sales are irresponsible." Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer for England and Wales, wants to ban them by setting minimum prices for alcoholic beverages.

Even if Britain were full of "harmful drinkers" who choose their beverages based on price, the Perrier/pilsener comparison would not make much sense, since tap water (not to mention Smart Price sparkling water, 5 pence a liter at Asda) will always be cheaper than the most deeply discounted beer. I do shudder to think, however, what sort of "value lager or bitter" can be had for less than 40 cents a pint.