Alcohol pricing decision: a huge missed opportunity

By on 18/07/2013 in News

Dr Adrian PhillipsDirector of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, has labelled the government’s decision to drop plans for a minimum price for alcohol ‘a huge missed opportunity’.

Plans for a minimum unit price for alcohol have been shelved, though there will be a ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks priced below the level of duty and VAT.

The government has also ruled out a ban on multi-buy promotions due to a ‘lack of convincing evidence’ that it would have a significant effect on consumption.

The decision has prompted criticism from the health profession and Dr Phillips says the availability of cheap alcohol is a major health problem in Birmingham and elsewhere.

He said: “This decision represents a huge missed opportunity and the sad fact is that cheap, strong alcohol costs lives. Until we get to grips with that, many of our alcohol related problems will continue - both in terms of health issues and antisocial behaviour.

“It cannot be right that in some cases alcohol is cheaper than water and we desperately need measures to combat that ridiculous situation.

“It's now increasingly common for people to 'pre-load' on cheap alcohol at home before heading out. That has major health implications but also economic implications as bars and pubs just can't compete on price.

“I hope the Government can be brave enough to reconsider this decision, so we can start to tackle the unhealthy relationship many people have with alcohol.”

In Birmingham, 25 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women in the city are drinking above safe limits and the damage caused by alcohol misuse includes:

  • At peak times, up to 70 per cent of all admissions to accident and emergency departments in Birmingham are related to alcohol;
  • 3,600 incidents of domestic violence (around a third) are linked to alcohol misuse;
  • Up to 170,000 working days are lost through alcohol-related absence, costing the city's economy about £30 million each year;
  • About 20,000 children in Birmingham are affected by parental alcohol problems;
  • Marriages where there are alcohol problems are twice as likely to end in divorce;
  • In 2009, half of all 11 to 15-year-olds in the city had already had an alcoholic drink;
  • Parental alcohol misuse has been identified as a factor in more than 500 child protection cases.

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