Minimum alcohol price 'would cut binge drinking'

Alcohol should be priced at a minimum of 60p per unit to drive down binge drinking, public health experts said today.

The Government in England has so far resisted calls from the medical community, including the British Medical Association (BMA), to introduce a minimum price.

The Scottish Government has proposed legislation to introduce minimum pricing but opposition parties are against the move and it does not yet have enough Parliamentary support.

Today, a survey of 205 public health experts for the UK Faculty of Public Health, found 87% were in support of introducing a law to set a minimum price for alcohol.

Almost six in 10 (59%) were in favour of raising the price to 60p per unit, while 35% thought 50p was appropriate and 5% thought 40p a unit was sufficient.

In January, the Government's chief medical officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, called for a minimum price of 50p to be set.

He said substantial effects would be seen immediately in England, including 3,393 fewer deaths each year, 97,900 fewer hospital admissions and 45,800 fewer crimes.

But Prime Minister Gordon Brown distanced himself from Sir Liam's comments, saying the Government did not wish to punish the majority of sensible drinkers.

President of the faculty, Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, said: "There's a lot of evidence showing that cheap drink is fuelling Britain's booze culture and ruining so many lives.

"We need to set a minimum unit price that's high enough to deter heavy binge drinkers without hitting too hard the much greater number of people who drink sensibly and moderately."

In September, the Scottish Government heard how it could save £950 million over 10 years through minimum pricing at 40p a unit.

The measure would reduce hospital admissions and deaths by 3,600 a year in Scotland alone.