Minimum alcohol pricing 'would cut deaths and hospital admissions'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Bringing in a minimum price of 40 pence per unit of alcohol would cut deaths and hospital admissions, according to a UK economist.

Writing in the BMJ, John Appleby, chief economist at a UK-based health think-tank called the King's Fund, says the Government plans to introduce a minimum price would reduce alcohol consumption by over 2 per cent.

This would mean 38,900 fewer people would be admitted to hospital every year, and cut alcohol-related deaths by 1,149 per year - driven chiefly by a reduction in behavioural problems, liver disease, and alcohol poisoning.

As well as these issues, regularly drinking more than the recommended daily alcohol intake increases the risk of several types of cancer.

Alcohol is now much more affordable than 30 years ago, aside from brief periods since 1980 that generally coincide with economic recessions and lower disposable incomes.

Over the past five years, for instance, spending has fallen by 17 per cent in real terms - back to 1996 levels - due to Briton's increasingly cash-strapped situation.

Therefore Appleby suggests "the impact of various price and non-price interventions to reduce drinking show significant impacts".

Appleby also says that data on hospital admissions associated with alcohol suggest that the UK suffers from a "drinking problem".

The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions doubled between 2002 and 2010 to around 265,000. Appleby notes that deaths due to alcohol also rose between 2001 and 2008, although they fell marginally in 2009, to 6,584 in England.

According to the economist, a 50 pence minimum price would more than double the positive effects yielded by the 40 pence minimum price. And economic recession has even greater "sobering" effects, he says.

Chit Selvarajah, Policy Advisor at Cancer Research UK, said: "There's no doubt that alcohol can cause seven types of cancer, so it's important to find ways to reduce consumption. We know that about 12,500 cases of cancer in 2010 were down to alcohol.

"Cancer Research UK therefore welcomes the introduction of minimum pricing as part of a wider strategy to reduce the consumption of alcohol and help prevent cancer."

Copyright Press Association 2012

References

  • Appleby, J. (2012). Drinking nation: have we had enough? BMJ, 344 (apr17 2) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e2634