Minimum pricing 'must be priority'
Health organisations have called on the UK Government to prioritise its proposal for a minimum price on alcohol.
A report by the University of Stirling sets out policies aimed at curbing "the nation's drink problem", including a recommendation that a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol is introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The report, Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK, suggests that an independent body should be set up to regulate alcohol promotion including packaging and design, with at least a third of the product's label displaying a health warning.
Each product should be taxed based on the volume on alcohol it contains and the drink-drive limit should be reduced to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, it also says. A group of around 70 health organisations, known as the Alcohol Health Alliance, helped compile the report.
The UK Government's 10-week public consultation on whether to a introduce a baseline amount of 45p per unit of alcohol closed on February 6. Its response is expected before May.
The Scottish Government has already passed legislation, setting the minimum price at 50p, although no date has been set to enforce this because of a legal challenge to the proposed law. The Holyrood administration also plans to reduce the drink-drive limit in Scotland from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.
The Alcohol Health Alliance is urging the UK Government to adopt these measures, to prevent England, Wales and Northern Ireland being "left behind". Sir Ian Gilmore, who chairs the alliance, said: "Governments across the UK have begun to take action to reduce the harm that alcohol can cause. This action is very welcome but needs to go further.
"In developing this strategy, we considered the best available evidence about appropriate policies and interventions that are needed both to reduce drinking levels in individuals and reduce the damage to families and communities that alcohol can cause. The report provides a blueprint for action, now and in the future."
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, which has launched the Why Should Responsible Drinkers Pay More? campaign against minimum unit pricing, said: "Consumers have made it very clear: they are opposed to minimum unit pricing. They do not think it is fair that responsible drinkers should have to pay more because of the actions of a minority of irresponsible drinkers.
"Rather than looking at the same old restrictions on price, availability and marketing, the Government should look at locally targeted solutions, better education and enforcement of existing measures that have been shown to work."