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Alcohol minimum price of 45p proposed

Five-point plan to tackle problem drinking in England and Wales is issued for consultation
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

28th November 2012 - Health groups have welcomed plans for a 45p minimum price for alcohol in England and Wales.

The Home Office is to consult on the proposals drawn up to tackle binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.

The idea of setting a minimum price for each unit of alcohol was first set out in the government's alcohol strategy in March this year. The home secretary Theresa May noted that many people now drink excessively at home and often 'pre-load' before they go out.

She told the House of Commons that several studies had shown that alcohol consumption is closely linked to the price of booze.

45p or 50p?

The decision by the Home Office to consult on a minimum price for alcohol of 45p per unit contrasts with Scotland where 50p has been proposed. The Scottish Government is currently facing a legal challenge to its plans from the Scotch Whisky Association and the European Spirits Organisation.

Most drinks will not be affected by the minimum pricing, but cheap vodka, super-strength cider and special brew lagers would cost more. The government has given assurances that the price of a normal pint in a pub will not be affected.

Restricting alcohol promotions

The Home Office has also submitted four other proposals for consultation. They are:

  • A ban on two-for-one type multi-buy promotions in shops and off-licenses
  • A review of mandatory licensing conditions to ensure they are targeting problems such as irresponsible 'happy hours' and other promotions in pubs and clubs
  • A new health related objective for alcohol licensing so that the number of alcohol outlets in a local area can be taken into consideration
  • Cutting red tape for responsible businesses to reduce the burden of regulation on responsible businesses while maintaining the integrity of the licensing system

A social cost

In a parliamentary written statement announcing the 10 week consultation, Theresa May says: "We are consulting on these measures because too many of our high streets and town centres have become no-go areas on a Friday and Saturday night. Just under half of all violent crimes involve alcohol and a great deal of anti-social behaviour is alcohol-fuelled."

She says irresponsible drinking costs the taxpayer £21 billion a year and leads to one million alcohol-related violent crimes and 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions.

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK, which represents 32 healthcare organisations, has welcomed the consultation but is calling for a 50p per unit price.

Alliance chair, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the Royal College of Physicians’ special adviser on alcohol, says research by the University of Sheffield demonstrated that "a minimum unit price of 50p would reduce total alcohol consumption by 6.7%, saving around 20,000 hospital admissions in the first year".

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing says in a statement: " Alcohol abuse causes long term health conditions, increases crime, destroys families and puts A&E staff at risk from violence; all of which are totally unacceptable. As long as alcohol is available at a heavily discounted price these will continue."

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