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Addiction. 2018 Dec;113(12):2225-2232. doi: 10.1111/add.14386. Epub 2018 Aug 22.

How dependent is the alcohol industry on heavy drinking in England?

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Institute of Alcohol Studies, London, UK.
School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.



To understand the extent of the alcohol industry's financial dependence on drinking above government low-risk guidelines in England.


Scenario modelling using descriptive analyses of pooled data from the 2013 and 2014 waves of two nationally representative surveys: the Health Survey for England (HSE) and the Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF). We estimated the proportion of alcohol sales revenue accounted for by drinkers above guideline levels, and how this varies between different beverage and retailer types. We then estimated the impact on sales revenue if the entire population reduced their drinking to within guideline levels, as well as the average price increases necessary to compensate for such a loss of revenue.




A total of 16 872 individual (HSE) and 9975 household (LCF) survey respondents.


Transaction-level estimates of volume of alcohol purchased and price paid by beverage type and trade sector.


Those drinking above guideline levels are estimated to account for 68% of total alcohol sales revenue in 2013/14: 81% of off-trade revenue and 60% of on-trade revenue. This represents 77% of beer, 70% of cider, 66% of wine and 50% of spirits sales value. The heaviest drinking 4% of the population account for 30% of all consumption and 23% of all industry revenue. If all consumers reduced their drinking to within guideline levels, alcohol sales revenue could decline by 38% (£13 billion). To mitigate this loss, average prices paid would have to rise substantially-for example, by £2.64 for a pint of on-trade beer or £12.25 for a 70 cl bottle of off-trade spirits.


In England, the alcohol industry appears to be highly financially dependent upon heavy drinking, and might face significant financial losses were consumers to drink within guideline levels.


Alcohol consumption; alcohol industry; concentration of alcohol consumption; conflict of interest; consumption patterns; distribution of alchol consumption; drinking patterns


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