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alcohol health alliance uk

If itís good enough for Scotland, itís good enough for us

Posted 01/11/11

The British Government should follow Scotland’s lead and commit to introduce an alcohol minimum pricing bill if it is serious about tackling the problems caused by alcohol misuse, according to a report published today (Tuesday, November 1).

The Four Steps to Alcohol Misuse surveys the price of more than 500 alcohol products at branches of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, as well as discount supermarkets across the North East. It concludes that alcohol is still being sold for pocket money prices.

Prices are so low that a unit of alcohol is being sold for as little as 12p. This means a man can drink at his recommended daily limit (3-4 units) for just 48p and a woman can drink at her daily limit (2-3 units) for just 36p - less than the price of a can of leading cola.

Other findings include:

It is the second price survey to be conducted by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, following the publication of last year’s Selling Alcohol at Pocket Money Prices. Today’s release reveals that alcohol remains as cheap as it was 21 months ago.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “Making alcohol less affordable strikes at the very heart of the problems that we face at the hands of alcohol misuse.

“Research shows us that the more alcohol consumed, the greater the damage done to our families and communities. It also shows that consumption levels are hugely affected by price. As prices have fallen - alcohol is 44% more affordable than it was in 1980 - consumption has increased dramatically. Over the last 60 years average alcohol consumption per person, per year has more than doubled to over 11 litres. We need to turn back the tide. Here in the North East, a third of people say they would buy less alcohol if prices were raised.

“If an alcohol minimum pricing bill is good enough for Scotland, it’s certainly good enough for us. After all, here in the North East, we face many of the same problems as our neighbours. A third of North Easterners are drinking above the Government’s recommended limits on a daily or almost daily basis and one in five binge drinks weekly. We have the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions in England and half of all violent crime is alcohol related.”

Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, has backed the call. She said: “The problems that we face in Scotland at the hands of alcohol misuse are no secret. However, these problems are not ours alone and we know that northern England in particular shares many of the same issues – with similar levels of severity.

“By committing to introduce its alcohol minimum pricing bill, the Scottish Government has shown strong leadership and clear intent in tackling these problems head on. This strong leadership needs to be replicated by the British Government if we are to be successful in reducing consumption and undoing some of the damage done by alcohol misuse.”

Should it be passed, the Scottish bill would increase the price of the strongest, cheapest alcohol in a move to reduce consumption, particularly among younger and heavier drinkers. A minimum price would have little impact on moderate drinkers or on the price of a pint in a community pub.

The British Government has previously ignored the benefits of a minimum price, which is supported by medical experts such as former chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the Royal College of Physicians.

Instead it has backed the introduction of a ban on the sale of alcohol below the price of duty plus VAT. However, The Four Steps to Alcohol Misuse reveals that this measure has been set so low that it will have no real impact – marginally increasing the price of just two of the hundreds of products surveyed.

Those products are both bottles of vodka, retailing at £10.51 and £11.29 respectively, providing a unit of alcohol for 28p. Although certainly a cheap unit price, it is still more than twice the price of the cheapest alcohol, available in some supermarkets for just 12p a unit, which will remain untouched by the Government’s chosen price control.

Colin added: “There’s a real appetite for meaningful change on this issue across our region. We know that almost half of North Easterners support the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol and would pay a little extra for alcohol if it reduced rowdy behaviour in public, crime and violence and the burden on the NHS.”