NICE recommends minimum alcohol pricing
The government should introduce a minimum price for alcohol and consider an outright ban on alcohol advertising, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has said.
Health experts at the institute believe that thousands of lives could be saved each year if alcohol was made less affordable and harder to buy.
In its latest guidance on preventing harmful drinking, NICE claims that around one in four men and women drink dangerous amounts of alcohol.
It has outlined a number of measures that it believes may be effective at lowering the risks of alcohol-related harm.
Firstly, NICE recommends introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol, which should be reviewed on a regular basis.
The amount of alcohol that can be imported by holidaymakers should be reduced, along with restrictions on the number of outlets that can sell alcohol in a given area, or the days and hours that it can be sold.
NICE suggests that applications for new licenses to sell alcohol should be considered in light of the number of existing outlets in the area.
It also says that advertising regulations should be strengthened and a complete ban on alcohol advertising considered to protect high-risk groups such as children and young people.
Professor Mike Kelly, public health director at NICE, said: "Alcohol misuse is a major public health concern which kills thousands of people every year and causes a multitude of physical, behavioural and mental health problems.
"Based on the international evidence, it is clear that policy change is the best way to go about transforming the country's unhealthy relationship with alcohol and prevent people from getting to the stage where they are drinking worryingly large amounts."
The professor claimed that, if NICE's proposed measures are implemented, they will "significantly" reduce alcohol consumption and offset some of its social, economic and health problems.
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: "This is a very practical set of recommendations, based on solid evidence. We need to see this turned into action as soon as possible.
"The government should fast track a minimum price to stop the sale of ultra cheap alcohol. And we would like to see licensing authorities restrict the hours of opening for pubs and clubs in city centre trouble spots."
In response, Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said: "There is a clear link between drinking alcohol and an increased cancer risk and there is good evidence that increasing the price of alcohol will affect how much people drink.
"Minimum pricing deserves serious consideration as part of a plan to reduce alcohol consumption in Britain."