Fixed drink price 'will save lives'
Wednesday 18 April 2012
Plans to introduce minimum alcohol pricing would save more than 1,000 lives each year, a report has claimed.
The Government announced last month that it was planning to set a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol for England and Wales.
An article published on bmj.com said the proposal would have significant impacts on alcohol-related deaths, hospital admissions and consumption.
The report's author, John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund, added that a minimum price of 50p would more than double the effects.
Mr Appleby said the 40p minimum price would reduce alcohol-related deaths by 1,149 and would see 38,900 fewer hospital admissions.
It would also cut each person's alcohol consumption by 2.4%.
Mr Appleby said alcohol-related hospital admissions doubled in England between 2002 to 2010, to around 265,000 each year.
Alcohol-related deaths also increased between 2001 and 2008 but fell slightly in 2009 to 6,584.
But binge drinking among young men has seen a sharp decline since 1998.
The article, titled Drinking nation: have we had enough?, found spending on alcohol more than doubled between 1964 and 2004 but then fell by 17% - back to 1996 levels - over the next five years.
It increased again slightly in 2010, to a total of £42.1 billion - a third of the amount spent on the NHS each year.
Each person over the age of 18 spent an average of £17 a week.
Mr Appleby said price and disposable income were the key to determining the demand for alcohol and spending often dipped in times of economic recession.
He said the fall in spending between 2004 and 2009 was partly due to the recent economic recession.
Mr Appleby added that alcohol was much more affordable now than it was 30 years ago, apart from brief periods since 1980, which generally coincided with economic recessions and lower disposable incomes.
He said: "Whether or not these observations constitute a substantial problem now - given the lags in health and other effects of drinking and recent falls in consumption - the impacts of various price and non-price interventions to reduce drinking have been extensively modelled, and they show significant results.
"For the Government's proposed minimum price tactic of 40 pence per unit of alcohol, the impacts include a reduction in the mean annual consumption per drinker of 2.4%, in deaths of 1,149 annually and in hospital admissions of 38,900 annually.
"A 50 pence minimum price would more than double all these effects."
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