Price war launched on cheap alcohol

CAMPAIGNERS have launched their fight to end the days of ultra-cheap alcohol - with the backing of regional GPs.

The alcohol awareness group Balance has unveiled its fight to bring in a minimum unit price for alcohol of at least 50p.

In support, most of the region’s influential clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have signed an open letter backing the Government’s intention to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol.

The groups, which represent the region’s GPs, will be in charge of commissioning health services for the North-East from next year.

The Mail reported how the true cost of alcohol to the town’s economy was £42m a year, including the burden on the NHS, on business through sick days taken, and through crime.

It comes after Balance surveyed GPs across the region and found that seven in 10 say increasing the price of alcohol would reduce health harms.

Eight in 10 support a minimum unit price and almost six in 10 strongly support the measure.

Dr George Rae, chairman of British Medical Association North-East, said: “A minimum unit price, as a key part of wider alcohol strategy, would have a huge impact on tackling the North-East’s heavy drinking culture.

“Unfortunately, the North-East often finds itself at the top of the league when it comes to alcohol harm.”

The Balance campaign will support and inform an upcoming Government consultation around minimum unit price, expected to begin later this year.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “Cheap alcohol is having a devastating impact on the North-East – it’s ending lives, putting people in hospital, fuelling crime and threatening the future of our children and young people.

“This is the real cost of alcohol sold at pocket money prices.”

Research carried out by the University of Sheffield indicates that after 10 years, England will anually see 3,393 lives saved, a reduction of hospital admissions by 97,900, crimes cut by 45,800, unemployment down by 27,100 and save 296,900 working days lost through absenteeism if the 50p minimum price is introduced.