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Raising alcohol price will have health benefits

24th March 2010

Researchers say that all drinkers would see health benefits if the price of alcohol increased.

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A team from Sheffield University say that setting the minimum cost at 50p per unit of alcohol would save up to 50,000 people from illness in a decade.

People aged 45 and older with chronic ill health, especially cardiovascular disease, would benefit most.

Writing in The Lancet, researchers say the rise would cost moderate drinkers £12 a year, though the drinks industry believes minimum pricing penalises responsible drinkers.

The Sheffield team say the 50p limit would cut a moderate drinker's weekly intake by about 3.5%, enough to impact on rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease and resulting in 2,900 fewer premature deaths a year as well as 41,000 fewer cases of chronic illness.

Researcher Dr Robin Purshouse said: "When you look at the range of benefits, it's not just the illnesses that people would associate most commonly with alcohol and heavy drinking, although those will also go down.

"In terms of the overall burden, about 20% is for moderate drinkers who make up half of the population."

The Department of Health said alcohol misuse was a complex problem it was working "harder than ever" to tackle.

Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium described minimum pricing as a “blunt tool” which penalises responsible drinkers.

He added: “Supermarkets are driving a culture of sensible drinking by using unit labelling to help people regulate how much they drink, preventing underage sales and backing the Drinkaware Trust.”

 

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