Don’t change drinking plan

PLEA: Colin Shevills
PLEA: Colin Shevills

CAMPAIGNERS today urged the Government to “stand firm” after reports of a possible U-turn on a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Officials at the region’s drink awareness group Balance spoke out after suggestions the Government may be abandoning plans for a price of 45p per unit.

Colin Shevills, the director of Balance, said the Government should first be congratulated for “looking at the strong evidence to support minimum unit pricing and proposing to introduce this targeted policy that promises to save thousands of lives and prevent thousands of crimes”.

But he said the evidence was so strong that the Government could not now do nothing.

“We know that it is needed and it is wanted – evidence also tells us that it works,” said Mr Shevills.

“Our region continues to suffer from some of the highest levels of alcohol harm. We have the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions and the highest rate of under 18s in alcohol treatment.

“Importantly most people in the region have backed call for the introduction of a minimum unit price.

“The last few weeks have seen a number of major health reports showing Britain faces an enormous burden from alcohol. With death rates from liver disease rising by 65 per cent over the past 20 years, the Government cannot afford to do nothing.”

Mr Shevills said the only real support for maintaining the current position came from global alcohol producers who had come up with “a high profile, well-funded campaign.”

Mr Shevills added: “This is a group with a clear interest in prioritising profits over public health.

“We urge the Government to stand firm on MUP in the confidence that the evidence gets stronger, and the support base wider, for this policy by the day.”

The Hartlepool Mail reported late last year that drinking was costing the town’s economy £42m a year – the equivalent of £462 for every person in the town. Statistics also showed 19,281 sick days are taken due to alcohol by workers in Hartlepool, costing the town’s workplaces £13.57m annually.

Alcohol misuse in town is costing the NHS £9.73m in treatment bills while alcohol-related crime and licensing costs £14.56m.

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