Killer quango NICE in new nanny state drive against alcohol
The National Institute for Curbing Expenditure (NICE) wants to set a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in its latest wheeze to crack down on problem drinking.
The public health quango, which labour set up as the Government’s drugs rationing body, has spent two years looking at how to reduce alcohol-related health problems.
One in four people drink at levels that could be putting their physical and mental health at risk, according to official figures.
The move will reignite debate about how best to deal with the problem.
Deaths from alcohol abuse have more than doubled in the last 16 years, with almost 9,000 a year now succumbing to conditions such as alcohol poisoning and liver cirrhosis
More than 860,000 people a year are also admitted to hospital because of alcohol and the cost to the nation of excessive drinking is put at an estimated £27 billion a year.
Health experts and charities have all backed calls for a minimum price per unit to curb Britain’s binge drinking culture.
But many in the drinks and retail industries are strongly opposed to such a move and believe a minimum price would disproportionately hit responsible drinkers.
The move has already been backed by the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Physicians.
Analysis by Sheffield University found that setting a minimum price of 50p a unit would save up to 3,400 lives a year without hitting moderate drinkers.
A draft of the Nice guidance, published in October last year, recommended the introduction of a minimum price per unit and said there was “sufficient evidence … to justify the introduction of a minimum price per unit.”
As well as overall consumption levels, a minimum price would also help to reduce binge and underage drinking, advocates believe.
Minimum pricing is expected to have a much harder impact on supermarkets and off licenses than pubs and restaurants, which sell alcohol at higher prices.
Supermarkets in particular have been criticised for selling alcohol at very low prices, including cans of beer for as little as 22p each.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said that minimum pricing “would punish millions of innocent consumers” without solving the problem of alcohol misuse.
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