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Plans for minimum alcohol price

The government’s top medical adviser has drawn up plans for a minimum price for alcohol which would double the cost of some drinks in England.

Under the proposal from Sir Liam Donaldson, it has been reported that no drinks could be sold for less than 50 pence per unit of alcohol they contain.

It would mean most bottles of wine could not be sold for less than £4.50.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government “had not ruled out” taking action on cheap alcohol.

Sir Liam’s proposal is aimed at tackling alcohol misuse and is set out in his annual report on the nation’s health.

The BBC’s health correspondent Adam Brimelow said Sir Liam’s recommendation would not automatically become government policy.

But he said Sir Liam was influential and had advocated a ban on smoking in public places long before it became law.

Our correspondent added that recent research from the Department of Health had shown that a minimum of 50 pence per unit of alcohol would reduce consumption by almost 7%.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We have not ruled out taking action on very cheap alcohol – it’s clearly linked to people drinking more and the subsequent harm to their health.

Industry opposed

“Any decisions we make will take into account their wider economic impact during this difficult time.

“It would be wrong to make sweeping changes without consideration of all the options suggested by our research published in December.

“We need to do more work on this to make sure any action we take is appropriate, fair and effective.”

Carys Davis of Alcohol Concern said that setting a minimum price for alcohol would help deter youngsters from binge drinking.

She said: “It tends to bring up the prices of the alcoholic drinks that are drunk by harmful and very young drinkers, whereas you’ll find that moderate drinkers tend not to really see a negligible financial effect.

“So for the price that Liam Donaldson is suggesting – which is 50 pence per unit minimum – moderate drinkers will spend on average about eleven pounds eighty per year more on their alcohol and they’ll see a consumption drop slightly as well”

But the Portman Group, set up by drinks manufacturers to promote sensible drinking, said it opposed the plan.

Portman chief executive David Poley told The Sunday Telegraph: “This would hit the pockets of hard-working families who are already struggling to make ends meet, and it would not deter those people who drink to get drunk.”

Earlier this month the Scottish government published plans for a minimum price per unit of alcohol, which is strongly opposed by retailers and the drinks industry. No price threshold was set.

Setting a minimum price could have a particular impact on “own brand” or “value pack” beers and ciders.

Sir Liam’s report is due to be published on Monday. The proposals as they stand do not apply to Wales or Northern Ireland.

Hospital admissions

Ministers are determined to tackle the problem of alcohol misuse, which impacts on health, crime and anti-social behaviour.

The NHS bill for alcohol abuse is an estimated £2.7bn a year.

The most recent figures show hospital admissions linked to alcohol use have more than doubled in England since 1995.

Alcohol was the main or secondary cause of 207,800 NHS admissions in 2006/7, compared to 93,500 in 1995/96.

The figures include hospital admissions for a specific alcohol-related condition – such as liver disease, but also admissions where alcohol is a contributory factor but not the main cause – such as falls due to drunkenness.

Of hospital admissions in 2006/7 specifically due to an alcohol-related diagnosis, almost one in 10 were in under 18 year olds.

The number of alcohol-related deaths in England has doubled since the early 1990s to nearly 9,000 a year.

source: BBC News

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