In England, high-strength alcohol is sold for extremely low prices but comes at enormous cost. Alcohol is the leading cause of death and disability in people aged 15-49 and in 2020 more lives were lost as a result of alcohol than in any year since data collection began.
The cheapest alcohol causes tremendous harm. The heaviest drinkers – just 4% of the population – account for nearly a third of all alcohol consumed and the cheapest drinks are drunk by the most vulnerable people. Research in Scotland before they introduced a minimum price per unit calculated that strong white ciders were drunk almost exclusively by dependent drinkers.
In England we're falling behind the rest of the UK. Years ago, people in Scotland and Wales decided that there should be a minimum price for alcohol – that it should be impossible to buy a bottle of strong cider containing 18 units of alcohol for less than £4, or a bottle of vodka containing 26 units of alcohol for less than £10.
Most consumers don't notice any difference, because most drinks already cost more than the minimum price. At the minimum price in Scotland and Wales (50p per unit in 2021) an average pint of lager must cost at least £1, and a bottle of wine at least £4.50. Pub and restaurant prices are already well above that price. The impact is on the cheapest alcohol, mostly that sold by the biggest producers and retailers, and the reduction in harm is felt by the most vulnerable – the young and the heaviest drinkers.
Minimum unit pricing works. The global evidence is so strong that the World Health Organization recommends increasing the price of alcohol as one of the most effective ways to reduce alcohol harm. The emerging evaluation data from Scotland and Wales is already showing positive impacts.
It's time for change in England, too. Add your name to the petition to call on government to introduce this life-saving policy.
I call on the UK government to reduce the harm caused by alcohol by introducing a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England, at the same level as other nations of the UK.
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