Geordies have been spitting out their pints this morning, as it was announced that Newcastle could become the first city in England to introduce a minimum alcohol pricing scheme.

If it's introduced, the booze tax will charge 50p per unit of alcohol on all places where it's sold, from pubs and clubs to off licences and supermarkets. It could see a drastic rise in pricing, with a three-litre bottle of cheap cider - currently £3.60 - jumping up to as much as £11.

Scotland has already passed legislation to begin minimum alcohol pricing, with the scheme taking effect as of May.

Alcohol support charities have been quick to commend the activities of Newcastle Council.

"We applaud our colleagues in Newcastle," said Colin Shevills, director of Balance. "However, the most effective way to cut problems would be for the Government to follow the example of Scotland and introduce MUP across the whole country."

A man with his favourite drink. Credit: PA
A man with his favourite drink. Credit: PA

The consequences for minimum alcohol pricing on Newcastle's thriving nightlife scene are potentially huge. The city's Bigg Market is world renowned, while thousands of people a year visit the city for stag and hen weekends.

"It's insulting people's intelligence to suggest that the amount somebody drinks has to be controlled by hitting their pocket," said Andy Simpson, director of Hangover Weekends, a company that specialised in organising stag and hen parties in the city.

"Where premises are found to be selling alcohol below this price and there are problems, the committee may decide to impose a condition in relation to pricing of alcohol," said a spokesperson for Newcastle City Council.

The Bigg Market has come in for criticism over the years because of an association with violent behaviour and drunken debauchery - think Geordie Shore.

It's home to more than 20 bars and nightclubs with late licences, as well as countless fast food outlets that service a heavily intoxicated crowd.

The area has become synonymous with binge-drinking and is Newcastle's worst district for violence and sexual assault, with roughly four offences recorded per week.

The issue of minimum alcohol pricing has become a hot topic in recent years. Twelve years ago, Tony Blair instituted a major alcohol licencing reform that allowed for 24-hour drinking, which was intended to curtail binge drinking, but few establishments took up the opportunity to extend their hours.

A recent study reported that just five percent of drinkers make up a whole third of all the alcohol consumed in the UK, mostly concentrated on high-strength, low price drinks.

"This small group of people whose daily heavy drinking of these very cheap, strong alcohol - mostly ciders - is doing them so much harm," said Rosanna O'Connor, director of Public Health England. Campaigners say that a 50p minimum per unit would barely affect moderate drinkers.

Featured Image Credit: Geordie Shore on the booze. Credit: MTV

Mischa Pearlman

Mischa is a freelance journalist usually based in either New York or London. He has written for Kerrang!, Record Collector, NME, the New York Observer and FLOOD magazine, among others. Contact him at [email protected]

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