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alcohol health alliance uk

U-turn will cost lives in the North East

Posted 17/07/13

The lives of North Easterners will be lost as a result of Government’s failure to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

Earlier today (Wednesday, July 17) the Government announced that it had dropped plans to introduce the measure, which is proven to save lives, cut crime and reduce hospital admissions.

Instead Home Office minister Jeremy Browne introduced a ban on the sale of alcohol below the price of duty plus VAT – a measure 50 times less effective than a minimum price set at 45p per unit, according to independent experts from Sheffield University.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “We’re bitterly disappointed by today’s announcement. Without doubt it will cost lives across our region, while failing to cut alcohol related crime and reduce the burden on our already overstretched hospitals.

“Despite Government suggestions to the contrary, the evidence base behind the introduction of a minimum unit price is overwhelming. Six countries have introduced minimum unit pricing for alcohol and we’re beginning to see significant benefits. In Canada alone a 10% price increase resulted in a 32% fall in alcohol related deaths.”

New research published today by the University of Sheffield demonstrates that banning below cost selling will have very little impact on alcohol consumption. It will reduce overall consumption by 0.04% (less than half a pint of beer, per drinker, per year) and will affect just 1.3% of all alcohol units sold.

Under the new policy, the average price of alcohol sold by supermarkets would be expected to rise by just 0.1%. For example, beers at 4% ABV could still be sold for 40p per 440ml can, a 700ml bottle of spirits at 40% for £9.49 and a two litre bottle of strong cider at 7.5% for as little as £1.43.

Colin added: “Banning the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT will make no impact whatsoever in tackling the damage done by alcohol sold at pocket money prices. The new policy will reduce approximately 15 alcohol related deaths, 500 hospital admissions and 900 alcohol related crimes a year. A MUP of 45p would be up to 50 times more impactful.

“The prime minister, in his forward to the Alcohol Strategy recognized that some policies would be faced with opposition. He said the responsibility of Government isn’t always about doing the popular thing – it’s about doing the right thing. But today’s announcement is a huge step away from doing the right thing”.

Speaking after Prime Minister’s Questions, Home Office minister Jeremy Brown said that minimum unit price would remain a policy ‘under consideration’ but would not be taken forward at this time. He said there wasn’t enough evidence that it would be effective in reducing harms without penalising people.

He said that the Government would not be introducing a ban on multi-buy alcohol sales but would be giving the alcohol industry greater responsibility to reduce the amount of strong alcohol sold, while relaxing laws to allow more outlets to sell alcohol.

Colin concluded: “Today’s announcement has been a real victory for the alcohol industry and its shareholders and a big loss for vulnerable groups in the North East – a region where we have the highest rate of under 18 hospital admissions, the highest rate of alcohol related liver disease and where a majority backed the introduction of a minimum unit price.”