Minimum pricing to target young and problem drinkers
The government's proposals for a minimum price per unit of alcohol will target young and problem drinkers, NICE says.
Alcohol abuse is a growing problem, with alcohol-related injuries and illness costing the NHS £2.7 billion per year.
Estimates suggest that in a community of 100,000 people, 2,000 will be admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related condition, 3,000 will show some signs of alcohol dependence and 500 will be moderately or severely dependent on alcohol.
Last week, the government published its alcohol strategy, which sets out several key policies to curb alcohol misuse, including setting a minimum unit price for alcohol.
In a foreword to the document, Prime Minister David Cameron said consultations are still being held on the actual price per unit, but that a price of 40p “could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths a year by the end of the decade”.
NICE recommended introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol as a way of reducing alcohol-related harm in its public health guidance on Alcohol-use disorders published in 2010.
The guidance says that making alcohol less affordable is the most effective method for reducing the damage that it causes.
Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Public Health Excellence Centre at NICE, said: “The proposal to introduce minimum pricing per unit of alcohol is a welcome one.
“We know that young drinkers and problem drinkers tend to migrate to the cheapest forms of alcohol and that minimum pricing is an effective way to prevent this and reduce consumption.
“We also know that a minimum price per unit of alcohol will have a negligible effect on moderate drinkers and will not affect the price of beer in pubs or wine in restaurants.
“The NICE guidance on alcohol use disorders reviewed this evidence and found it to be very strong indeed.”
Professor Kelly added: “The misuse of alcohol is associated with liver disease, with obesity, with certain cancers, is linked to mental illness and is implicated in many acts of violence outside and inside the home.
“It is very important to get back to a culture of responsible drinking which will in turn help to avoid these problems.”
The NICE guidance also recommends that alcohol should be made harder to obtain by reducing the number of outlets that sell it in a given area, or through reducing the days and hours in which it is purchased.
This is mirrored in further key policies outlined in the government's alcohol strategy, which calls for local areas to be given more power to restrict opening and closing times.
The strategy additionally suggests banning multi-buy promotions, in order to discourage people from buying larger quantities of alcohol than they may want.
All of NICE's recommendations on alcohol can be found in the associated NICE pathway, which is an online tool that provides quick and easy access to our guidance.
27 March 2012