Nation's Health at Risk from Cheap Alcohol
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24 May 2010
The Government must address a massive increase in alcohol–related liver deaths
Sir, The Government’s announcement of another review on alcohol taxation and pricing focuses overly on binge drinkers. Instead, we need a wholesale review of the potential health benefits that a minimum price and increased alcohol duty would bring. To this end the comments from the Tesco chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, are a welcome contribution to this important debate (“That will be the lager talking”, Carl Mortished, May 22).
While there is an undoubted need to combat binge drinking, the new Government must also address the massive increase in alcohol–related liver deaths. Liver deaths in the UK are directly related to the affordability of alcohol and have increased fivefold while death rates from all other diseases have fallen. The relative cheapness of alcohol particularly impacts on health among lower socioeconomic groupings for whom new evidence demonstrates a marked increase in deaths from alcohol–related liver disease. The proposed measures on below–cost selling, licensing reform and prevention of under–age alcohol sales will address some of the criminal justice and social costs of binge drinking but will do little to reduce the rising tide of alcohol–related ill health.
The medical profession has no desire to penalise any individuals or businesses but the long–term health of the nation is at risk if the Government fails to act to make alcohol less affordable. Given the current financial situation, now would seem to be as good a time as any for the Government to do this.