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Minimum pricing considered for England

The Government is proposing to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol for England and Wales, at a suggested 40p per unit. Ministers argue that this will not affect responsible pubs or drinkers but will make it more expensive to get drunk and cause problems for hospitals and police.

Similar proposals are currently being considered by the Scottish parliament. The change would alter the price of cheap ciders, lager and spirits sold mainly in supermarkets. The Government is also considering banning BOGOF deals but will allow half-price promotions.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Binge drinking isn’t some fringe issue, it accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in this country. The crime and violence it causes drains resources in our hospitals, generates mayhem on our streets and spreads fear in our communities.”

He suggested it could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol related deaths per year by the end of the decade.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, RCP special adviser on alcohol and chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, welcomed the announcement, and called minimum pricing: “The fairest and most targeted way of helping those most at risk of damage to their health – young people and the heaviest drinkers.”

He added: “In order to get the best gains for health, the evidence shows that we need also to increase the price, reduce the availability, and tackle aggressive marketing of alcohol.”

Home Secretary Theresa May told BBC Breakfast: “Too many people think it’s a great night out to get really drunk and have a fight in our streets. What we need to do is to set a price that is actually going to ensure that we don’t damage responsible drinkers. People who like a drink or two, who like going down their local pub, have nothing to fear from this policy.

“But what we do want to do is to affect the cheapest end of alcohol, those sorts of offers that enable people to really do this ‘pre-loading’ - so many people now just get drunk at home before they go out, and that’s what causes the problems in our town centres.”

However, Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium said: “It’s simplistic to imagine a minimum price is some sort of silver bullet solution to irresponsible drinking.

“Irresponsible drinking has cultural causes and retailers have been hugely engaged in information and education to change attitudes to drinking.

“It’s a myth to suggest that supermarkets are the problem or that a pub is somehow a safer drinking environment. Effectively, a minimum price is a tax on responsible drinkers.”

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