Alcohol pricing cap 'only hits high-risk drinkers'
Only patients with liver problems who are the heaviest drinkers would be affected by a minimum price for alcohol, experts say.
Nine in 10 low-risk drinkers would not be affected at all if the Government were to introduce a 50p minimum unit price for booze, a new study suggests.
However, the impact on alcohol spending would be 200 times higher for patients with liver disease who were drinking at harmful levels than for low-risk drinkers, researchers said.
Experts from the University of Southampton examined 404 liver patients and asked them how much they pay for alcohol.
They found that patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis drank "huge amounts" of cheap alcohol, with a mean weekly consumption of 146 units in men and 142 in women at a median price of 33p per unit. Meanwhile, low-risk drinkers spend around £1.10 per unit, they said.
Their study, published in the journal Clinical Medicine, concluded: "As a health policy, a minimum unit price for alcohol is exquisitely targeted at the heaviest drinkers, for whom the impact of alcohol-related illness is most devastating."
Professor Ian Gilmore, the Royal College of Physicians' special advisor on alcohol, added: "Those with alcoholic liver disease consume very large quantities of alcohol, and as a result, they purchase the cheapest alcohol, irrespective of their income.
"The evidence is clear from this study that a minimum unit price would target those for whom the impact of alcohol-related liver disease is most devastating. Westminster has no credible excuse for its lamentable failure to take action on minimum pricing."