Alcohol-related deaths have trebled over the past 25 years and one person will die as a result of drink every hour over the next decade, scientists warn.
A study by the Alcohol and Health Research Unit (AHRU), which explores the link between consumption and alcohol-related deaths in the UK for the first time, predicts that excessive drinking will kill 90,800 people by 2019. The number of deaths has jumped from 3,054 in 1984 to 8,999 in 2008.
In England, more than a third of men said they drank more than the recommended 21 units in an average week, and a fifth of women reported drinking more than 14 units. Across Britain, 1.1 million adults are alcohol-dependent.
Don Shenker, the chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "This is an unacceptably high death toll, and the worst part is that all of these deaths are avoidable. Although there has been a small reduction in consumption and mortality over the past two years, the overall trend is a rise in consumption. This runs in parallel with the growing affordability of alcohol. Without policies which more effectively target the cheap price of alcohol we will not get to grips with what has become one of the country's biggest public-health problems."
Today's report ignores drink-driving deaths and those from cancers caused by alcohol. It also found that people between 55 and 74 suffer the most alcohol-related deaths and that this group showed the steepest rise since 1990.
Professor Martin Plant, the study's lead author, believes a 50p minimum price per unit would "cut alcohol-related hospital admissions, crimes and absence days from work". He added: "The UK has been experiencing an epidemic of alcohol-related health and social problems that is remarkable by international standards. It is strongly recommended that reducing mortality should be the top priority for alcohol-control policy." In March, Gordon Brown rejected the idea after the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, suggested the tariff.
Professor Ray Hodgson, research director at the Alcohol Education and Research Council, backed the 50p price. "Alcohol is our favourite drug," he said. "It is not an ordinary commodity. We must not treat it like soap powder."
NHS figures show alcohol was 75 per cent more affordable last year than in 1980. Pub landlords disputed the study's findings, insisting alcohol consumption had dropped more than 8 per cent per person in the first half of 2009.Reuse content