Saturday, 12 April 2008

Is the alcohol industry increasing the size of the deal ... to enhance priming?

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) President Ian Gilmore has accused the pub industry of acting irresponsibly by increasing the size of the 'standard' measure of wine glass. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers has hit back saying that it is in the business of offering customers choice.

The 125 ml wine glass used to be the standard size but now, according to the BBC, only 16% of pubs and bars say it is their normal size. Some 73% say 175 ml is the new 'standard' and 250 ml (equivalent to a third of a botle) the large. 
Some 14% of licensed premises say they now only offer the 250 ml sized wine glasses.
The BBC also report that there is 'even anecdotal evidence that some pub staff were under pressure to maximise profits by encouraging customers to opt for larger drinks.'
When I am buying a drink for my good friend Simon Shepherd, CEO of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals, he always insists on a small glass of wine. Starting a couple of years ago, he pointed out to me how hard it was to buy a small glass - staff always wanted to sell you a large glass. And he was right! I really had to insist strongly at times.
Now let's get this right. We are talking about the selling of a drug here, a drug which is known to produce a strong priming effect. For many people, drinking alcohol results in a desire to drink even more alcohol. Selling larger glasses of wine increases the likelihood of the priming effect.
Now don't tell me the alcohol industry does not know this. And is not trying to benefit from this situation.
It should be remembered, however, that the tobacco industry eventually faced large very expensive court cases when it was finally revealed that they were marketing a drug knowing that it was addictive, playing down the negative effects on health.
The same could happen to the alcohol industry in the future.


Anonymous said...

I learned something the other day, something really important and simple about this weird concept of a "unit" of alcohol.

The number of "units" you drink per litre is the same as the ABV strength. ie i litre of 5% beer contains 5 units, 1 litre of 12% wine 12 units.

How simple is that! A 500ml glass of 5% beer (nearly a pint) would therefore contain 2.5 units, a 250ml glass of 12% wine 3.

Why am I raising it here? Because what we don't have in this country is a consistent way to sell alcohol by dose and that, surely, should be the first step.

How are people supposed to know how much they're drinking when beer comes in pints and wine in ml? How do the two relate in terms of strength? Simply, no-one knows and no-one ever thinks about it as a result.

Standardising the measures instantly allows simple comparisons and labeling. To my mind that is a far better way to approach the same issue than simply providing smaller glasses and hoping people would use them.

But it does mean scrapping the pint and the brewers would be dead against that.

David Clark said...

An interesting comment and suggestion. Sounds sensible to me. As an aside, always wondered how the EC has not got us using litres instead of pints.