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The Real Cost Of Not Raising Alcohol Prices And Awareness

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 The Real Cost Of Not Raising Alcohol Prices And Awareness

There is definitely a hangover from the ‘lukewarm’ response from our Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on many levels. Magnus Linklater of the Times (17 03 09) states, ‘It’s clear: if alcohol is more expensive, lives are saved and crime falls. So why the resistance?’

Furthermore he argues ‘Can you be lukewarm about a proposal that would save lives and cut crime?’ Here there appears to be a moral and ethical dilema concerning the health of the nation.

Inexcess has reported relentlessly with regards to the hazards of drinking to excess. Evidence highlights that the probelem extends right across the generations in the UK. This is most definitely an epidemic of huge proportions, of which the Government has chosen to ignore all medical advice, even that of Professor Liam Donalson, his Chief Medical Officer. Why, is the question we all collectively need to be asking?

In no uncertain terms Sir Liam Donalson has detailed evidence that increasing alcohol prices would cut the number of alcohol-related deaths dramatically.

The evidence will now be presented in order to equate how cheap alcohol stands to date and the the impact and fall out on it’s population.

Factually,’ over the past 30 years in relative terms, beer has become 36 per cent cheaper in pubs, and 139 per cent cheaper to buy at off-sales premises; as a consequence, total consumption has risen by more than a fifth, with the biggest increase among women and the young.’

In that time, alcohol-related deaths in Britain have more than doubled, from fewer than 4,000 a year to more than 8,700; the social cost has been enormous on a personal level and to the NHS. Drink is the cause of nearly half of all violent incidents; in nearly a million assaults last year, the aggressors were believed to be drunk.

It has been confirmed via research conducted at Sheffield University that there is a straight correlation between the price of alcohol and its use. In addition the University established what is described as a ’striking model’ of a minimum price of 40p per unit. On that basis it was estimated that this would specifically reduce hospital admissions by 40,000 and crime by 3,800 cases per annum. In effect it would save the Government and the tax payer a whopping £1billion. More importantly, it would reduce the number of deaths by up to 50%.

The Chief Medical Officers conclusions are that by increasing the price per unit, you bring down consumption and the number of deaths; you reduce binge drinking and crime; you start the process of making our town centres places you might want to go to at the weekend, rather than avoid.

However, another aspect needs consideration and that is smokers were targetted in the same manner and moreover the theory did not work. Even the poorest carried on with their habit. A ban in public places was the policy adopted and even this has its limitations.

The Scottish Government is pressing ahead with the reforms. The price of wine per bottle may go up by a pound. The crux of the matter in relation to white cider and full strength lager is to make it less affordable to. For the sceptics and purchasers alike, these measures will not have the desired effect. Other approaches will also be necessary to really have an impact in changing current views on how alcohol is perceived.

Fiona Measham, of the University of Lancaster, who conducts her research in the clubs and pubs of Manchester, suggests that binge drinking has peaked, and that the desire to get legless every weekend as a matter of routine is less appealing than it once was. Part of the reason for that is that social trends go in cycles. “Every big splurge is time-limited,” she says. “The next generation doesn’t want to follow the example of the previous one, so the worst excesses are being contained.”

More measures are required to support the increase in prices, perhaps a bottom up approach from the users to the service providers could be considered, get rid of the slow policy makers, who always appear to have a different adgenda. Professor Martin Plant, of Bristol University, author of Binge Britain and probably our leading expert on alcohol, points out, the gap between science and politics on this matter is “as wide as the Grand Canyon”. He and his fellow experts know what the figures reveal, and conclude that the case for increasing the price of alcohol is well-nigh incontrovertible.

Alas, there are also social inequalities that still exist around issues of alcohol and smoking.

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