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Cumbrian health chiefs call for booze-only tills in supermarkets

Supermarkets should start selling booze from separate tills in a bid to end Cumbria’s binge-drinking culture, say local health experts.

Dr Nigel Calvert photo
Dr Nigel Calvert

The radical plan has been put forward by Cumbria’s top public health officers, Nigel Calvert and John Ashton. They argue it would stop wine, beer and spirits becoming a routine purchase as shoppers could no longer buy them alongside a pint of milk.

Instead, customers would have to take booze to a separate till, in the same way cigarettes and tobacco are sold from different kiosks.

One of the county’s leading alcohol and drug charities has backed the plan, which could make Cumbria the first place in England to implement such drastic sales measures.

The county’s binge-drinking culture has previously been labelled among the worst in the country due to the high number of people being hospitalised with alcohol-related illnesses and injuries.

Latest figures show that Cumbrians under the age of 30 – including one woman aged 22 – are dying from severe liver damage.

NHS Cumbria’s public health team, which is consulted on all new licensing proposals, put forward the recommendation in response to Sainsbury’s application for its new £40 million store, set to open in Caldewgate in October.

Dr Calvert, NHS Cumbria’s associate director of public health, said they will do the same with any new supermarket applications.

Carlisle’s new Sainsbury’s is the first in the county they are calling on to introduce alcohol-only tills.

Sainsbury’s has yet to comment on the proposal. Dr Calvert said although they can’t force companies to adopt this approach, he hopes they will consider it.

“Our view is that there’s been a big change in the way alcohol is sold. In the past it was all about pubs and off licenses, now the bulk of it is sold through supermarkets for consumption at home. It has become normalised.

“When you are out shopping you can find yourself walking down the wine aisle and buying it on impulse. In much the same way as cigarettes, we think it would be an idea to separate it,” he said.

Dr Calvert added that as well as helping change attitudes towards alcohol, it would also allow staff working on specialist tills to be trained to a higher standard and help stop under-age drinking.

Paul Brown, director of the Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (Cadas), believes it could work.

“At the moment it’s part of your weekly shop. Maybe by separating it people will start to think this isn’t like buying Special K,” he said.

“If you can’t just put it in your trolley they would have to make a real choice to buy it. They might think twice. We have to do everything we can to get people to look at alcohol in a different way. Yes it has its good sides but there are also a lot of negatives.”

Dr Calvert added that at present stores often display wine and beer next to other items, such as barbecue food or meals designed for a relaxing night in – pushing the idea that these foods should be accompanied by an alcohol drink. Separate tills would stop that.

Have your say

I lived in Canada for several years. There they have a specialised shop called the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). People buy alcohol by the trolley load just like doing a weekly shop.

Posted by Diane on 17 July 2012 at 12:20

Agree here, maryport the same where i am from, bottlebank always full aswell, would like to see a BIG CHANGE in this county, think a seperate queue would work a treat.

Posted by James Roberts on 16 July 2012 at 15:20

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