Doctors say alcohol must cost at least 50p/unit
Thursday, 24 January 2013
Doctors have backed the Government’s plans to set a minimum price for alcohol – but they warn that to achieve the required cuts in alcohol-related ill health and crime, the per-unit price must be higher than the Government proposes.
In its response to the Government’s public consultation on its Alcohol Strategy for England and Wales, the Alcohol Health Alliance said it ‘strongly supports’ the Government’s proposal to introduce a minimum price for alcohol sold in England and Wales, as well as the abolition of multi-buy deals on alcohol. But it argues that the proposed level of 45p as the minimum unit price (MUP) is too low.
The Alliance, a coalition that includes the BMA, many Royal Colleges and health faculties as well as a large number of charities, warns that in order to save more lives and prevent more crime, the MUP should be set at “at least 50p”. It argues that this would have no effect on people who drink moderately.
The Alliance’s chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said: “I welcome the Government’s intention to introduce a minimum unit price on alcohol, which is the fairest and most targeted way of helping those most at risk of damage to their health – young people and the heaviest drinkers. We will continue to seek a minimum unit price of at least 50p, which research shows would reduce total alcohol consumption by 6.7%, saving around 20,000 hospital admissions in the first year.”
The Alliance also supports the Government’s proposal that local authorities should be permitted to take into account the harm that alcohol causes to health, when they are deciding on the density of licensed premises in their area. But it says that this does not go far enough, and wants public health to be a licensing objective in its own right.
Eric Appleby, chief executive of the charity Alcohol Concern, said: “Up and down the country we’re paying a heavy price because of [alcohol misuse]. Our hospitals are straining under the burden, our police forces and ambulance services are stretched to the limits and communities are left picking up the pieces. We must introduce a minimum unit price if we are to protect the young and the vulnerable.
“But we cannot bring about change through price alone, we need to give local authorities and police forces the tools they need to get a firm grip on the way alcohol is being sold in their area through tighter controls on licensing.”