Health groups have called for the government to act to tackle the “plague” of illness caused by cheap alcohol after it was revealed that young people could get drunk for half the price of a bar of chocolate.
A study on alcohol pricing found that strong cider was available in city centre supermarkets and off-licences for as little as 10p a unit, while lager could be bought for little more than 26p a pint.
The research revealed that three-litre bottles of strong cider - containing more alcohol than doctors recommend a man should drink in a week - were on sale for £2.25.
Unbranded lager was found priced at 92p for a bottle containing 1.76 litres - around three-and-a-half pints - or 26p a pint.
The pricing means a woman could drink more than her daily recommended allowance for just 30p - half the price of a standard bar of chocolate.
Deborah Evans, chairwoman of the Core Cities Health Improvement Collaborative which carried out the research, said: “Despite inflation, increases in duty on alcohol and commitments to curb below-cost selling, we have seen the price of the cheapest alcohol largely unaffected over the past 12 months.
“As a result, young men and women can still buy their maximum recommended weekly allowance of alcohol for the price of a small latte or a cheap magazine.
“Meanwhile, the true cost of alcohol is picked up by taxpayers in the form of soaring hospital admissions, crime and anti-social behaviour.”
The Core Cities group - which represents health professionals working in England’s eight biggest cities outside London - looked at the prices of a number of drinks over the past three weeks.
Ms Evans added: “Despite all the encouraging noises we’ve heard in the past 12 months about tackling the damage caused by cheap booze, the grand talk in Parliament has had no effect on prices being paid at the checkout.
“In the meantime, we have seen the drinks industry’s willingness to absorb rises in duty on behalf of its customers, while supermarkets claim that it is responsible to sell alcohol for just the amount they owe the taxman.
“The time for tough talking is over; what we need now is strong and decisive action if we have any hope of tackling the plague of illness and injury caused by selling alcohol more cheaply than water.”