Minimum alcohol price in UK 'would save lives'

 
Man drinking beer Opponents of a minimum unit price say it is unfair because it penalises all drinkers

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A minimum price for alcohol in the UK would help prevent thousands of deaths from related diseases, a group of leading doctors and academics has said.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, 19 experts said Scottish plans for minimum pricing were a "simple and effective" way to tackle alcohol-related deaths.

They called for an end to so-called "pocket-money prices" ahead of a debate by MPs later on alcohol taxation.

The Department for Health said it was due to launch a new "alcohol strategy".

The group of leading experts said alcohol was linked to 13,000 new cases of cancer each year and associated with one in four deaths of people in the 15-to-24 age group.

Their letter was signed by the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Nursing among others.

'Bold action'

It said: "We need to narrow the price gap between alcohol bought in bars and restaurants with alcohol bought in supermarkets and off-licences, to make bulk discounts and pocket-money prices a thing of the past."

"We urgently need to raise the price of cheap drink," it states because of a "wealth of evidence" linking the cost of alcohol and levels of harm.

Start Quote

It's not just about damage to individuals who drink too much but their children and unborn babies and the victims of alcohol-related crime”

End Quote Professor Sir Ian Gilmore

If the coalition is not ready for the "bold action" of minimum pricing, it says MPs must not "lose sight" of taxation as a tool to lower drinking levels.

Last August David Cameron called for a crackdown on stores selling cheap drinks to stop alcohol-fuelled disorder leaving town and city centres like "the wild west".

The coalition has introduced a ban on the sale of alcohol for less than cost price, which will come into force in England and Wales in April 2012.

In November, the Scottish government made a second bid to bring in legislation which will set a minimum price for a unit of alcohol. It has already put in place a ban on "irresponsible" drinks promotions.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, special adviser to the Royal College of Physicians, said nearly 10,000 lives a year could be saved by a minimum price of 50p per alcohol unit.

He told the Telegraph that the government had acknowledged the importance of price by introducing a ban on selling alcohol below cost, but said this did not go "far enough".

"We're talking about saving lives here.

"It's not just about damage to individuals who drink too much but their children and unborn babies and the victims of alcohol-related crime. The most effective way of targeting the heaviest drinkers is probably through a minimum unit price."

A Department for Health spokesman said its new "alcohol strategy" would be launched early next year.

And a spokesman for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said he had been reluctant to consider a minimum price per unit because it would not be legal in terms of the EU competition regulations.

Opponents of a minimum unit price say it is unfair because it penalises all drinkers, not just those who cause or have problems.

In October, Anne Milton, public health minister for England, told MPs that a minimum price per unit could be open to legal challenges relating to European competition law.

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said alcohol had been too cheap for too long.

"There are record numbers of people being admitted to hospital for alcohol abuse. And the number of under-18s is rising steeply," she said.

"All the medical evidence points to the need for a minimum price per unit of alcohol. Alcohol abuse is not just a health issue, it is a public order issue."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 83.

    Anyone going to do a study on the correlation of drinking & the quality of life (or lack of) in this miserable country, where working is no longer viable for some due to soaring costs & greed.
    WHY is it that people want to get off their faces with booze & out of their own heads with drugs.
    Answer this and the problem may be solved more easily.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 82.

    Perhaps the boozing is connected to the decline of the country. Folk trying to cheer themselves up.

    Since Cameron and Co siezed power the boozing has certainly
    increased

    The respectable middle class folk get drunk at home. My Asda online delivery man tells me that his deliveries are mainly spirits and wine. My delivery of only groceries was unusual.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 81.

    Perhaps our Belgian friends should consider controlling alcohol more strictly as it surely could only have been dutch courage which led their former prime minister Guy Verhofstadt to declare that "britain is on the menu" . Did i hear somebody say he was from anTwerp?

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 80.

    They may be a "group of leading doctors and academics", but they're clearly idiots.

    Proven, time and again, through history:

    Education works. Prohibition doesn't.

    We need a better standard for assessing 'leading' doctors and academics.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 79.

    Why don't supermarkets only sell alcohol cheaply as part of a bigger spend... Cheap alcohol when you spend >£50 on normal groceries?
    Kids aren't going to be able to take advantage of this (I would imagine) and adults can take advantage of cheaper drink offers as per normal.
    Why do we all have to suffer?

  • rate this
    +50

    Comment number 78.

    as said before this is a cultural problem not a pricing problem look at our neighbours;-
    france, cheaper drink than us, without the problems.
    ireland, expensive drink, same problems.
    way too early to claim the minimum price set in scotland is doing any good, just because sales are down doesn't mean its the problem drinkers that have cut back on the drink.
    stupid idea

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 77.

    As a non-drinker this doesn't affect me, but I welcome the minimal pricing. It would hopefully mean less drunks on the streets. I have live in areas where drunk people parade around like they are in a pride parade at all times of the day. Also the amount of women who end up on staggering home, and end up being targeted by certain individuals, all because they've had one too many

  • rate this
    -38

    Comment number 76.

    Given the scale and cost of harmful drinking, even if it's not a magic bullet this has to be worth trying. If "stack 'em high, flog 'em cheap" industry apologists say it's a bad idea, logic suggests they suspect it would lead to an reduction in sales volumes. Lower sales volumes mean less harmful consumption of cheap booze means less social/health damage. A no-brainer, really.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 75.

    Thank god I've got the government to keep me on the straight and narrow.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 74.

    It saddens me that the alcohol debate is coming back to what is in effect prohibition. "People shouldn't be trusted to make their own decisions so we'll increase the price on everyone to limit their choices". Though funnily enough this doesn't effect the upper/middle classes who only drink expensive stuff. Ever seen Royal Ascot at full flow? Makes town center drinking look like a tea party.

  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 72.

    Minimum price for booze? The Do-Good Brigade know whats best for you.

    Miniumum price for McDonalds next.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 71.

    I see the problem with Poddy's logic perfectly clearly. There appears to be EVIDENCE that removing bargain booze, happy hours etc. will help with health. There is no evidence that raising the price of the other things will affect anything. Judgements can only be reliably made when there is evidence.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 70.

    I do wish people would not say 'but France does not have this problem', they are right they have a different culture. The fact these people are posting this shows how entrenched our ties to alcohol are, and cannot be changed over 10 years! We need action! For the record there are many recent reports about binging and alcoholism in France, spain etc but I guess you don't want to read that!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 69.

    It's about mindset, not pricing. You will find a minority of mentally-ill people in any country who abuse alcolhol and/or drugs - but, for the main part, if you go to other places binge-drinking is not found. Take *cheap* booze away from stupid people and they will find another way to risk their lives and annoy their neighbours

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 68.

    If you cannot buy cheap alcohol you make cheap alcohol and we all know homemade alcohol is bad. Do we never learn from History? Raising the price of alcohol or even banning alcohol does not work. The price of alcohol is not the problem or the cuase of excessive drinking. Prohibition in the USA led to the supply of illegal alcohol and crime

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 67.

    While I fully agree with 15 Chrisk50, we can hardly blame *this* government for destroying the pubs, for the process was in train under the last adminstration. Alcohol, like tobacco, is a very resilient addiction, and no matter how high the price is hiked, some people will choose their booze and fags first, perhaps neglecting less important claimants on their money, such as their children.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 66.

    yeah great idea, NOT! make alchohol more expensive and punish responsible drinkers.
    meanwhile those that still want a fix of some kind will go down the road and buy some weed for much cheaper than the price of a nights drinking and youve solved one problem and gained another

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 65.

    Hick!

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 64.

    yeah sure, put the prices up and create a black market. we'll see how the dodgy vodka impacts health.
    .

 

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