GOVERNMENT plans to increase the minimum price of alcohol in a bid to tackle problem drinking across the UK have been proposed after research was carried out in Sheffield.
The government wants to increase the minimum price per unit of alcohol to 45p, 5p more than ministers suggested in March.
Officials hope the hike in booze prices will prevent problem drinking and reduce the number of hospital admissions and alcohol-related crimes.
Last year alone saw more than one million booze-related crimes and 1.2 million hospital admissions due to alcohol.
A study conducted by University of Sheffield researchers has suggested a minimum unit price of 50p would reduce total alcohol consumption by 6.7 per cent, reducing hospital admissions by 20,000 within the first year.
Officials currently claim a can of lager can be bought for as little as 20p and a two litre bottle of cider for just £1.69. Cheap multi-deals in supermarkets and off-licenses selling cut price drinks could also be banned under the new legislation, but pub prices are unlikely to be affected. The proposal comes following increasing pressure on the government to match Scotland’s proposal of 50p per unit. Although the Alcohol Health Alliance supports the 45p proposal, chairman Professor Sir Ian Gilmore wants to see the minimum price at 50p. He said: “The evidence shows us that heavy drinkers and young drinkers are more affected by higher alcohol prices than moderate drinkers.” Officials from the drinks industry however are concerned that increasing the minimum price will hit moderate drinkers the hardest rather than tackling the real issue.
There were also suggestions that the price may increase further following the planned 10-week consultation period. Chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, Miles Beale, said: “In the spring we were told it would be 40p, it’s already 45p, we know that health groups are calling for a price of at least 50p and the Scottish Government has already proposed a 50p minimum unit price.” Home Officials officials have told the public the initiative is to tackle problem drinking and said moderate drinkers had nothing to worry about.