Stephen Tate owns Addison News in Stockton together with his wife Julie. The pair have been working with the local community for the past 30 years and see the harms of alcohol on a daily basis. Stephen is calling on the Government to end alcohol tax breaks and to follow Scotland’s example and bring in a 50p minimum unit price (MUP) in England.
“As a shop owner, there are many reasons why I am supportive of increasing taxes on alcohol and the introduction of minimum unit pricing. For one, I am very concerned about the pressures the NHS is put under by cheap alcohol, with so many people ending up in hospital or A&E because of it.
“My wife and I see people who are addicted to alcohol coming into the shop in the morning looking to buy it. It’s the cheap alcohol, like cheap vodkas and ciders, that they are looking for. It’s worrying that these types of products are putting vulnerable people at risk because they can get them so cheaply.
As a community store, Addison News knows many of its customers by name.
“I have seen customers affected personally by alcohol issues including a serious and life changing accident. It particularly saddens me to see young families torn apart by alcohol and children growing up in homes where drinking is a problem. The impact alcohol is having on our society is very worrying, and our culture is making it socially acceptable to drink heavily. It’s just not right that alcohol is so cheap and so available.
“I also think the Government needs to introduce policies like MUP to make it a fairer playing field for small businesses selling alcohol. At the moment, we can’t compete with supermarkets. In some supermarkets you can buy a can of lager for less than a bottle of fizzy pop or water. Introducing a minimum unit price will ensure businesses have to sell alcohol for a similar price.
“We are members of the Federation of Independent Retailers and what strikes me is the amount of support and interest for MUP lately among many members from across the North East and Cumbria. That might not be the view that is often represented by the alcohol industry, but it is definitely the feeling among many shopkeepers.
“Our members strongly believe that minimum unit pricing is the right thing to do because it would make the cheapest, strongest alcohol less affordable. We recognise the serious harms that alcohol can cause and it’s vitally important that something is done to bring about change. I would like to see alcohol playing less of a role in society and I would encourage all responsible retailers in England to back policies which bring about action on cheap alcohol.
“Many of my customers comment that it is much cheaper to buy alcohol in the supermarket than in my shop, but I stand by my principles. As a responsible retailer, we have a responsibility to our communities.”