Booze purge 'little help'

PLANS for a minimum price for alcohol will save only 20 lives a year and do little to ease the pressure on hospitals in Sheffield, an expert has told The Star.

Dr Robin Purshouse, a researcher at Sheffield University, said government proposals will only have a "modest" impact on public health.

Ministers this week unveiled plans to ban sales of alcohol priced below the rate of duty plus VAT. This works out at around 38p for a can of weak lager and 10.71 for a litre of vodka.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire said research suggested the new "floor" on alcohol price would prevent around 7,000 crimes a year - 2,000 of them violent - and target products associated with problem drinking.

He said: "Duty plus VAT is a basic definition of what the cost of those products are and we wanted something that was workable and that was actually compliant with competition law as well, so it could be introduced."

But health campaigners said the proposal was much less ambitious than the previous suggestion by the former Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson.

He advocated a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol, which researchers at Sheffield University estimated would have saved around 3,000 lives per year.

Dr Purshouse said the coalition's proposal, which is equivalent of 20p per unit of beer and only 10p per unit of cider, will save only 20 lives per year.

He said: "There are very few products that are less than that amount. The effects are likely to be pretty modest. They are unlikely to be anything like the scale of a 50p per unit price on reducing health harms or crimes."

The Sheffield researchers estimated that the government's proposals would result in 2,400 fewer hospital visits, compared with the 39,000 fewer hospital visits under a blanket minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

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