A news story from the BBC News
Introducing minimum pricing for alcohol would be up to 50 times more effective than current government policy, according to health researchers.
Hundreds of deaths could be avoided every year with a minimum price for alcohol units, researchers estimated.
The Department of Health said it was “taking action to tackle cheap and harmful alcohol”.
It added that it was working with industry to promote responsible drinking.
A minimum price of 45p to 50p per unit of alcohol would save hundreds more lives than current government policy, University of Sheffield researchers said.
The current ban on below-cost selling, which came into force in May, stops retailers from selling alcohol below the cost of duty and VAT.
The ban will save an estimated 14 lives and 500 admissions to hospital per year, the researchers said.
However, a minimum unit price of 45p could save 624 lives and 23,700 hospital admissions each year, they said in a BMJ publication.
Most of the harm reduction would happen for the 5.3% of people who are harmful drinkers, the researchers said.
While the ban on below cost selling will reduce harmful drinkers’ mean annual consumption by just 0.08%, or around three units per year, a 45p minimum unit price would reduce consumption by 3.7%, or 137 units per year.
In addition, the researchers estimated that the ban only increased the price of 0.7% of alcohol units sold in England, whereas minimum unit pricing would increase the price of 23.2% of units sold.
The Department of Health said it was “already making headway by removing a billion units from the market over three years.”
“Alcohol-fuelled harm costs society £21bn a year and we are determined to reduce this burden to taxpayers,” a department spokesperson said.
“We are taking action to tackle cheap and harmful alcohol such as banning the lowest priced drinks. We are working with industry to promote responsible drinking,” the spokesperson added.
The government considered bringing in a minimum alcohol unit price in 2012, but rejected the policy in July 2013, saying there was not enough “concrete evidence” that it would reduce harm.
Instead a ban on below cost selling was brought in to try to end the practice of supermarkets using drink as a loss-leader – selling drinks at below the cost they pay themselves.
Nonetheless, the government is still considering minimum pricing as a policy.
A Scottish government plan to introduce a scheme to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol is currently on hold because of legal challenges from the drinks industry.
Same old rhetoric ‘working with industry to promote responsible drinking’ while that same industry is involved in ‘legal challenges’ to stop the one evidence based and researched strategy that would aid this cause. Watch not what they say but what they do …….