Doctors call for booze ad ban

Alcohol advertising should be banned and a minimum price introduced to stop people drinking too much, doctors said today.

They called for a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol, echoing demands from the Government's chief medical officer earlier this year.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has given a lukewarm response to Sir Liam Donaldson's idea, saying he wants to protect the "sensible majority of moderate drinkers".

But doctors backed Sir Liam by a majority today, saying more needs to be done to tackle the UK's drinking culture.

Those attending the British Medical Association (BMA) conference in Liverpool heard how one in four adults are drinking at levels that are hazardous to their health and 36,000 11 to 15-year-olds get drunk every week.

Paediatrician Dr Keith Brent, from Bournemouth, said one of his first questions when he goes to work on a Saturday morning is to ask how many teenagers have been brought in drunk overnight.

He warned that teenagers get "tanked up" on cheap booze bought at supermarkets before heading out for a night on the town.

He blamed "really cheap cider, cheap cheap vodka and alcopops", adding that he saw one or two teenagers every Saturday morning who had overdone it.

He said the numbers were "much greater" than a decade ago and hospitals across the country were experiencing the same problem.

Dr Brent accused the Government of ignoring findings of reviews they have commissioned themselves which show that introducing minimum pricing cuts drinking among both young people and heavy drinkers.

"The Government are doing what they have done in the past with these public health measures - pushing them into the long grass," he said.

"They already have the evidence, they already know what the answer is."

Dr Brent said it was "ludicrous" for the Government to continue to refuse a minimum price on the grounds it would unduly hit the majority of responsible drinkers.

The research showed it would add just 23p per week to the cost of their alcohol, he said.

"Once again the Government in England is bowing down to big business," he added.

The Scottish Government is currently considering introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol of between 40p and 50p.

Dr Chandra Mohan, from London, who proposed today's motion, said research showed there could be a cut of 100,000 hospital admissions every year in England if minimum pricing was introduced.

Over a decade, health savings would be £1.37 billion.

Dr Charles Daniels, from the BMA's GPs committee, spoke against the motion, saying it was "nanny state politics" and would "punish the majority for the sins of the minority".

A spokesman for the Department of Health, said: "The Government has decided not to proceed with any national or local measures around minimum unit price.

"While there is good evidence that cheap alcohol is linked to people drinking more and subsequent harm to their health, it is important that any Government interventions reduce harm without impacting unduly on the majority of responsible drinkers. We will look to develop further the evidence base in this area."