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Alcohol pricing cap 'only hits high-risk drinkers'

By Ella Pickover

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."

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