Nearly one-third of alcohol sold in England drunk by 4% of population
Minimum unit pricing could dramatically cut alcohol consumption among problem drinkers, according to a parliamentary committee.
Just 4% of the population consume almost one-third of all the alcohol sold in England, according to healthcare data.
The figures emerged during a debate on a 50p minimum unit price on alcohol by a parliamentary committee on Monday.
Rosanna O’Connor, director of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco at Public Health England (PHE) said: “Around 4.4% of the population are drinking just under a third of the alcohol consumed in this country.
“That’s around 2 million drinking just over 30% of the alcohol.”
Our joint evidence session with @CommonsHomeAffs on alcohol #MinimumUnitPricing has started. The first panel includes representatives from @UK_AHA, @PHE_uk, @PoliceChiefs and @AmandineGarde. Watch it here https://t.co/MTtDkZpkJP pic.twitter.com/qMBko875cm— Health and Social Care Committee (@CommonsHealth) January 22, 2018
Ms O’Connor said the majority of the group were drinking very cheap, high-strength alcohol such as cider.
A three-litre bottle of cider containing 22.5 units of alcohol can be bought for as little as £3.60.
If the 50p minimum unit price were to be introduced, the costs would jump to £11.
Ms O’Connor said: “The result would be a significant impact on a small group of people. That’s why it’s such a targeted policy for such great health gains.”
She was joined on the joint Health Committee and Home Affairs Committee by Professor Nick Sheron of the University of Southampton, who also runs the liver unit at Southampton General Hospital.
He said: “My patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis, their average consumption is 120 units a week. That’s the median, the mean is higher – it’s 150.
“A typical Frosty Jack’s drinker would be drinking about 16 litres a week and they would be paying about £20 for it – now that would go up three-fold, they’d be paying almost £70 for it.”
For people drinking 14 units per week – the recommended weekly limit – the cost would be an extra £1.26 per week for someone drinking wine or spirits, £2 for a beer drinker and £3 for a cider drinker, he said.
Dr Sheron said the financial impact of the cap on a moderate drinker could be as little as 61p per month or £7 per year.
Those supporting the minimum unit price say it only targets a small group of problem drinkers, such as street drinkers, under age drinkers and young people “pre-loading” before a night out.
Unlike a tax, it will not impact alcohol price in pubs and clubs, which they say could have a negative impact on the night-time economy.
Critics of the proposals say money raised from a minimum unit price goes straight to the manufacturers, while increased duty could be used to provide alcohol treatment programmes.
Government figures estimate that alcohol abuse in England and Wales costs £21 billion annually, including cost to the health service, alcohol-related crime and losses to the economy.