British Ministers have unveiled plans for setting up minimum prices for alcohol in England and Wales. According to the ministers their plan will prohibit shops and bars from selling alcohol for less than the rate of duty plus VAT. They say that this will set a base price for the first time ever and accordingly reduce crime.

Home Office Minister James Brokenshire went on BBC Radio 4 were he suggested that the new floor on alcohol prices would prevent approximately 7000 crimes a year, 2000 of them violent. He also remarked that the plans will target products associated with problem drinking.

While Professor Ian Gilmore, of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of the UK Health Alliance carefully lauded the news as a step in the right direction, he also uttered disappointment: “It’s an extremely small step. It will have no impact whatsoever on the vast majority of cheap drinks sold in supermarkets”. Moreover he went on to state that the proposals would have no effect at all on the health of the nation.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern of the British Medical Association urged ministers to look again at a minimum price per unit of alcohol. According to Shenker VAT is so low in the UK that this measure will not stop shops from selling very cheap alcohol and be within the law. Because of this the British Medical Association is calling for tougher actions.

Although a 50 pence-per-unit minimum was backed by health campaigners, the plans of the Home Office are substantially lower, with a minimum price of around 21 pence per unit of beer and 28 pence per unit of spirits.
Petra Meier, professor of public health at Sheffield University, said: ‘Around the 20 to 30p mark, the effect on alcohol-related harm is very modest.’ She predicts the new minimum prices to save about 21 deaths and about 2,400 hospitals admissions, “compared with say a 50p unit price, where you would save around 3,000 deaths and 39,000 hospital admissions.”

For an overview of the new minimum prices click here.

Source: the Mail Online 01/19/11

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