Men's health * Healthy living

Call to ban supermarket reward points for alcohol

Doctors call for ban on supermarket reward points for booze Loyalty schemes could undermine minimum alcohol price moves

Scottish doctors are calling for a ban on the use of supermarket rewards points to buy alcohol at reduced prices.

The Scottish parliament is already considering introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol, and also banning price promotions on wine, beer and other drinks.

These moves are in response to the growing alcohol abuse problem in Scotland - and could be introduced to the rest of the UK if successful.

Alcohol generates billions of pounds worth of revenue to the supermarket industry and the use of points provides incentives to purchase particular products.

With the Tesco Clubcard scheme for example, double points are awarded for wine, beer and spirits (2p for every £1 spent). Tesco is also trialling a triple points scheme which would further reduce the price for customers.

Effect of loyalty points on minimum unit price

For instance, Tesco currently sells a 15 pack of Carling lager for £10.00, but with Clubcard points the equivalent price is £9.80. According to the proposed bill, with minimum alcohol pricing of 45p per unit the lowest price this product could sell for would be £12.18, but with the rewards promotion the price is £11.94.

Similar promotions are often available from other leading supermarket chains.

Doctors' concerns

Commenting on the proposed change to the bill, Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said that "alcohol is no ordinary commodity and should not be treated as such. Alcohol consumption is reaching epidemic levels in Scotland with one person dying an alcohol-related death every three hours."

"Introducing a ban on reward points for alcohol products is a sensible and straightforward measure. Supermarkets already exclude regulated products such as tobacco and baby milk from their reward schemes and it would be sensible to add alcohol to this list."

Ban on price promotions

The Alcohol Bill before the Scottish Parliament sets out measures to end alcohol promotions in off-license premises. The amendment proposed by the Scottish BMA would extend this to outlaw loyalty scheme promotions linked to alcohol purchases.

Dr Keighley said: "A ban on promotional activity involving alcohol must be comprehensive. The industry has been left for too long to regulate itself and we are now in a situation where alcohol is sold at ridiculously cheap prices. It is now time for the Parliament to step in and put in place robust legislation that will protect our nation’s health and also create safer and better communities."

This article was published on Wed 22 September 2010

Image © Ernst Fretz -

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