ASA Ruling on Balance - The North East Alcohol Office
Balance - The North East Alcohol Office
Ground Floor East
Unit 3, Belmont Business Park
20 February 2013
Number of complaints:
A leaflet, for a public health campaign to increase the minimum unit price of alcohol, stated "WHAT WILL IT COST ME? The extra cost per person per year". A graphic below showed a stack of pound coins along with text that stated "AN AVERAGE 28P PER WEEK". Text below stated "*The above graphic reflects the price rise people who drink within the recommended limits can expect to pay under a minimum 50p per unit".
The complainant challenged whether the claim that the average increase for people drinking within the recommended limits would be 28p per week, was misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Balance said the 28p figure had been taken from an independent review of the effects of alcohol pricing and promotion, which had been carried out by the University of Sheffield. They said the research in question detailed the effects of a minimum unit price of 50p and predicted that there would be an average change in spend for the moderate drinker, of £14.45 per annum. They explained that they had divided this figure by 52 in order to give an average additional weekly cost of 27.8p, which they had rounded up to 28p. They said the research actually suggested that moderate drinkers would reduce their consumption by a small amount and therefore their alcohol bill would only rise by £11.81 or 23p per week, but that they had chosen to use the higher figure in the interests of fairness. They pointed out that the research was commissioned by the Department of Health and had been subjected to rigorous peer review at every stage of its development, before being published in the Lancet. They further advised that the research was referenced in a number of key policy documents, including a report by the World Health Organisation and the UK Government's Alcohol Strategy of March 2012.
The ASA noted the complainant's concern that, because alcohol could be bought more cheaply than some of the individual prices quoted in the leaflet, the figure of 28p per week may not be accurate. However, we accepted that those prices had not been used to calculate the figure of 28p, which had been taken from peer-reviewed research that looked at 54 different combinations of age, sex and levels of consumption, across 16 types of alcoholic beverage. We noted that the study used a five-year dataset from the Expenditure and Food Survey, which showed the number and variety of alcohol units purchased, along with the actual price paid for each purchase. Whilst we acknowledged that some drinkers who drank within the recommended limits may end up paying more than an additional 28p per week if a minimum unit price of 50p were introduced, depending on their drinking habits, we noted that the ad clearly stated that that was an average figure and we accepted that that figure had been taken from widely accepted independent peer-reviewed evidence. We therefore concluded that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.