Cheap alcohol is 'devastating' life in the North East


Liam O'Brien
Friday 26 October 2012 11:36 BST

Doctors in the North East of England have urged the Government to set a 50p minimum price per unit on alcohol following concerns about its “devastating impact” on the region's health.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, 21 leading medics said cheap, high potency alcohol needed to be kept "out of the hands of the vulnerable".

Seven out of ten GPs believe introducing a minimum price would have a positive effect on the area's health, according to Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

Balance director Colin Shevills said alcohol was "ending lives, putting people in hospital, fuelling crime and threatening the future of our children. This is the real cost of alcohol sold at pocket money prices".

Dr George Rae, a practising GP in Whitley Bay, said: "What I'm seeing nowadays that I didn't see 25 years ago is young people coming in with alcohol-induced liver problems, and when I question the patients, it's all down to binge drinking. One patient in their twenties even had gout."

A recent survey by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed young people living near "party cities" in the North East are more likely to binge drink than anywhere else in the country.

Doctors said health wasn't the only problem caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol. Almost half of all crime and domestic violence in the region is alcohol-related, and it has the highest rate of hospital admissions and male alcohol-related deaths.

Katherine Brown, the Director of Policy for the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: "The beauty of minimum pricing is that it targets the most harmful and dangerous forms of cheap drink, without unfairly penalising moderate consumers."

The chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Miles Beale, said minimum pricing will not solve the problem of binge drinking. "It is vital to recognise that minimum unit pricing is untried, unproven and there is no evidence to suggest that it will solve alcohol misuse, and related anti-social behaviour," he said.

David Cameron has backed the introduction of a 40p minimum rate in England and Wales. In Scotland, a 50p minimum is already in place, but it is subject to a legal challenge.

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