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NICE calls for minimum alcohol pricing


A minimum price should be introduced for alcohol and the government should consider a complete ban on alcohol advertising, health experts said today.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issued new guidance calling for a crackdown on cheap alcohol.

It stopped short of saying what the minimum price should be, although the Faculty of Public Health and the British Medical Association are among those backing a 50p per unit minimum.

Last month, Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy said he was in favour of a minimum price, adding that binge drinking was one of the most serious issues facing the country.

The coalition government has said supermarkets and off-licences will be banned from selling alcohol below cost price.

Stores will be blocked from using alcohol as a “loss leader” as ministers try to cut crime and health problems linked to binge drinking.

Today’s guidance for England recommends a raft of measures, including making alcohol less easy to buy.

This could include cutting how much holidaymakers are allowed to bring into the country from abroad, and reducing the number of shops selling alcohol as well as the days and hours it can be bought.

Councils should look at how many shops are already selling drink in an area to check if a place is “saturated” before granting new licences.

Professor Mike Kelly, NICE public health director, said such a move would “not penalise” trade drinking or pubs but would tackle the “aggressive promotion of heavily discounted alcohol” in supermarkets.

Evidence suggests that a 50p minimum price would lead to a 3.8% cut in how much moderate drinkers consume and a 10.3% cut for those drinking at levels hazardous to their health.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Regarding NICE’s recommendations on minimum pricing for units of alcohol, it is not clear that the research examines specifically the regressive effect on low-income families, or proves conclusively that it is the best way to impact price in order to impact demand.”


Readers' comments (4)

  • There is already regulation in place, it is rarely enforced. The landlord of Licensed premises has a legal duty of care to the customers. This includes refusing to serve alcohol to someone who is intoxicated. Unfortunately supermarkets are quite happy to sell cases of beer at BOGOF offers and people can buy as many as they like - these are not the actions of a responsible license holder. This regulation needs to be enforced more. The duty of care extends to drink driving, if a landlord serves somone alcohol. who they know is driving, they are liable to prosecution if that person gets into a car and drives away. Happy hours are also being looked at as irresponsible, because it encourages people to drink as much as possible in a short time.

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  • I agree with the comment above but also have to consider the lack of thought on unit pricing. Not only has NICE again given wild sweeping statements but will undoubtably isolate a huge percentage of the population who are unemployed or in financial difficulties who do consume alcohol in a responsible manner.
    We are all aware of the increasing financial impact alcohol has upon the NHS, I'm just not sure if this is the correct road to take.
    At the end of the day, if someone wants to drink, they will. Are we going to regulate "brew your own"?, will it increase crime?

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  • I agree with the above comments and consider that the NICE statements are ill considered and have a questionable evidence base! I would agree that reducing the 'Happy Hour' approach may have some benefit by lowering the likelihood of individuals/groups of people aiming to maximise the amount of alcohol consumed in a restricted time period. BUT the most important issue is really education and attitude modification. Smoking has progressively increased in price but that in itself did not deter smokers - it is only the sustained educational approaches combined with support that have made any significant impact on smoking. Incidentally I am a non-smoker and have never smoked). In the case of alcohol the prohibition years merely increased the desire and drove it underground.
    Forgive my apparent cynicism but this is an inadequately considered knee-jerk reaction that is welcomed by the government as being a NICE boost to the Taxation Revenue.

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  • I'm an addictions specialist nurse - alcohol is a MASSIVE problem, and really is literally killing this country; so something has to be done.. whether a minimum unit price is the answer is debatable, but it would at least go some way to curbing the excessive drinking habits of young teenagers.. This is such a key patient group - I recently watched a young man of 21 die of alcoholic liver disease.. 21.. Our society promotes drinking as a cultural activity - I was trying to buy an 18th birthday card recently, and every single one had alcohol references; in fact most were blatantly encouraging getting really drunk - how sad, that that's all being 18 means to us here. If everyone could see the devastation alcohol causes rather than just their own personal experience of 'responsible' drinking, general opinion may be different. Nobody 'needs' alcohol so maybe if it were a little more expensive we would all treat it with more respect just like we do with other highly toxic substances. If the government REALLY wanted to tackle the problems caused by alcohol, they would invest in effective, evidence based treatment services instead of giving lip service to the problem by releasing alcohol strategy packages with no money attached..

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