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Study: Minimum Alcohol Pricing Could Save 860 Lives a Year in UK

Previously proposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, such a policy if adopted would help low-income heavy drinkers the most, researchers say.

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By Bryan Le

02/10/14

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A recent United Kingdom study shows that the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing laws would prevent 860 deaths and 29,900 hospital visits a year. Researchers at Sheffield University have claimed that enacting policies that set the minimum price of stronger spirits to about 45 pence (or $0.74 USD) per unit, the populations most afflicted by alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations - low income, heavy drinkers - would see dramatic improvements in health and lifespan.

Such a policy was proposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron in March 2012, who had hoped it would become “a big part of the answer” to the UK's binge drinking problem. However last July the government rescinded the plans in favor of banning “deep discounts” that limited how low the sale price of alcohol could go instead. But advocates of minimum pricing say that a “deep discount ban would be ineffective," only impacting one percent of all sales.

The UK's low income, heavy drinking population typically spends about £2,700 on booze, 40 percent of which is under 45 pence per unit.

"Our study finds no evidence to support the concerns highlighted by government and the alcohol industry that minimum unit pricing would penalise responsible drinkers on low incomes,” said Professor Petra Meier, who co-authored the study. “Instead, minimum unit pricing is a policy that is targeted at those who consume large quantities of cheap alcohol. By significantly lowering rates of ill health and premature deaths in this group, it is likely to contribute to the reduction of health inequalities."

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