Easier than ever to buy cheap booze in poor areas

Cheap booze is easier than ever to buy despite the dramatic surge in pub closures - especially in deprived areas, according to new research.

A new study shows that despite ten per cent of pubs closing between 2001 and 2013, the average distance from any postcode to somewhere selling booze in England is just 323 metres.

And 85 per cent of postcodes have access to a shop or pub selling alcohol within 500 metres.

In the same time period (2001-2013) the number of supermarkets and convenience stores selling beer, wine and spirits, have more than doubled.

Alcohol is more easily available to buy in more deprived areas than the least deprived postcodes, with three times as many outlets selling booze within walking distance on average, according to health experts.

The study, by the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group (SARG), also found that the average distance from any postcode in England to a place selling alcohol is just 323 metres (0.2 miles).

The researchers said that although the total number of outlets selling alcohol has fallen over time in the most deprived areas, a “substantial switch” from large numbers of pubs to large numbers of convenience stores means that the availability of cheap alcohol is likely to have increased “significantly” in those areas.

They said their study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Public Health Research and Alcohol Research UK, raises important concerns about the availability of alcohol, especially in deprived areas which are more affected by alcohol-related health problems.

People in the lowest socio-economic group in England die on average six years earlier than those in the highest, according to official figures.

Tackling alcohol-related harm plays a major role in reducing the gap, according to the researchers.

Study leader Colin Angus, a Research Fellow at Sheffield University, said: “Our research shows a major change in how people obtain their alcohol.

“Small supermarkets and convenience stores, where alcohol is commonly available at low prices, have proliferated in recent years.

“At the same time, the numbers of pubs, which sell alcohol at a higher price, has decreased dramatically.

“What is especially concerning is that these trends are most pronounced in deprived areas, which we know are particularly affected by alcohol-related harm.”

Dr James Nicholls, Director of Research and Policy Development at Alcohol Research UK which helped to fund the study, said: “This research provides important new insights into the alcohol retail market in the UK.

“Understanding the relationship between where alcohol is sold, how available it is, and the harms linked to consumption is crucial to the work of local licensing authorities and public health teams.”

He added: “ We hope this new study will further strengthen the ability of regulators to develop effective policies around alcohol sales.”