Health concerns over the affordability of alcohol

Shop-bought alcohol is nearly 200 per cent more affordable than it was 30 years ago, health chiefs have warned.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 10:24
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

As debates continue around minimum unit pricing (MUP) in England, new figures have show that cheap supermarket beer is 188 per cent more affordable than it was three decades ago.

The analysis from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) also shows trade wine and spirits from shops are 131 per cent more affordable than in 1987.

Officials at Balance say it is fuelling ill health and putting pubs at risk.

In the North East, research by Balance shows 54 per cent of adults in the region support MUP, with less than 19 per cent opposing.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “These figures are extremely worrying. As alcohol has got cheaper, individuals and communities are seeing more harm from alcohol.

“Cheap alcohol is contributing to a massive burden on our North East public services, with alcohol costing our NHS £209million a year for services like hospital admissions and A&E attendances, and police £331million in crime and disorder.

“It is also no wonder that many pub landlords see cheap supermarket alcohol as one of the biggest threats to the local community pub.”

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He added: “Minimum Unit Pricing is being introduced in Scotland, while politicians in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have all committed to it. It is vital that the UK Government now follows suit so that England does not get left behind.”

In England over the last decade, alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased by 64 per cent, and the number of people diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer has gone up by eight per cent

Katherine Brown, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “Evidence shows that as alcohol becomes more affordable, communities experience greater levels of harm.

“In England cheap alcohol is creating a huge burden on our NHS, police and public services, with more than 1.2 million hospital admissions and one million crimes related to alcohol each year.

“These findings strengthen the case for minimum unit pricing, which would target the cheapest alcohol drunk by those causing damage to themselves and others without affecting the cost of a pint down the pub.”

Minimum unit pricing (MUP) will come into force in Scotland on May 1. This policy will set a floor price of 50p per unit, below which alcohol cannot be sold.

In England, it is estimated MUP would prevent 525 deaths and 22,000 hospital admissions each year.