A group of 70 medical colleges and health bodies has called for a higher minimum alcohol price of 50p, above the 45p suggested by David Cameron last year.
The Alcohol Health Alliance has released a report, Health First, calling for the price rise, as well as a range of other measures, including stark warnings on packaging, and a lower drink-drive limit. They claim the move is necessary to save thousands of lives a year.
The government recently held a public consultation on alcohol pricing, which will make its recommendations in May.
The Royal College of Physicians believes a 50p minimum would prevent more than 3,000 alcohol-related deaths each year. “The UK is seeing a year-on-year increase in alcohol-related deaths, especially from liver disease,” said Andrew Langford, the chief executive of the British Liver Trust.
He said that more than 10,000 premature deaths a year were related to alcohol. The report was backed by the British Medical Association, the GPs’ body.
Higher pricing is opposed by several Conservative cabinet ministers as well as the most of the alcohol industry, who believe it would unfairly hit responsible drinkers. “Consumers have made it very clear: they are opposed to minimum unit pricing. Not everyone who looks for value in their shopping is a binge drinker,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
However an exclusive The Grocer/Him! survey found that public opinion on minumum pricing is split. The Shop Waves survey found 45% support for the policy as oppsoed to 47p who where against it.
The Scottish government announced last May that it would raise the minimum unit price to 50p. With a minimum 50p unit price, a 2-litre bottle of value cider would rise from approximately £1.70 to well over £4, and a 70cl bottle of value vodka from approximately £9 to over £13.
But the Scottish administration has had difficulty enforcing its pricing. The bill to set the new price was passed last year, but the move has been challenged at European level by wine-producing nations, who argue it breaches EU free trade law.
In addition, the Scotch Whisky Association and several European bodies have been granted a judicial review of the bill, which is currently underway in Edinburgh.