The Prime Minister said he would look sympathetically at local initiatives to tackle “deep discounting” of booze which can deliver a unit of alcohol for as little as 20p. Meanwhile Alcohol Concern claims a 150% price rise would solve a lot of drink related problems.
Cameron said he would not support Alcohol Concern’s proposals for a tax to increase alcohol prices to a minimum level but he was supportive of plans by 10 councils in the North West to create a by-law making it illegal to sell alcohol for less than 50p a unit. The government intends to publish a consultation paper later this year which is expected to include proposals to ban shops selling alcohol below cost price. Some supermarkets e.g. Asda have already pledged not to do this.
The Prime Minister told the Manchester Evening News: "I think the idea of the councils coming together on this is a good one and we will certainly look at it very sympathetically.
But despite this support, the idea may contravene competition laws by unfairly discriminating against those firms which have the capacity to supply alcohol at the lowest cost.
Alcohol Concern’s proposal is to increase the cost of alcohol significantly to effectively make it a luxury good. They too propose a minimum 50p/unit cost which would mean the price of a two litre bottle of high strength cider containing 15 units would rise from just under £3 to £7.50 and a bottle of whisky containing 40 units would rise from just under £15 to £20.
The idea is backed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence which says that alcohol abuse causes 15,000 deaths every year in the UK. They claim that a 50p/unit minimum price would result in 97,000 fewer hospital admissions and 45,000 fewer crimes.
Meanwhile in Brighton & Hove, which has the highest level of alcohol related hospital admissions in the soth east, the primary care trust and the local authority are backing a year-long information campaign called "Save Dave" aimed at men over 35 years of age. Dave is an imaginary character who drinks more than is good for him and needs to get help.
The campaign urges anyone who is, or knows, a "Dave" type character to seek help using flyers in pubs, clubs and bars and a wider information campaign to get the message across.
The city council's overview and scrutiny committee has set up a panel to look at alcohol abuse and it has been chosen as one of the first pilots for the administration's new strategic commissioning model of operation [see earlier story].
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