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Government urged to adopt minimum pricing plan for alcohol in England

Health, homelessness and children’s leaders have urged the government to implement minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in England.

The calls come as MUP comes into effect in Scotland, where it is expected to reduce alcohol deaths and levels of alcohol-related harm, as well as cut crime and reduce costs to the health service.

Campaigners said that, following the roll out of MUP in Scotland, it is vital that England does not get left behind in terms of reducing the harm done by alcohol.

Campaigners pointed to estimates which suggest that, if MUP in England were to be delayed by 5 years, over a thousand lives could be lost.

MUP works by setting a floor price below which a unit of alcohol cannot be sold.

In Scotland, this floor price will be set at 50p per unit. This means that a pint of beer containing 2 units will now have to cost at least £1, and a bottle of wine containing 9 units will have to cost at least £4.50.

The measure is designed to increase the price of the cheapest, strongest drinks consumed by those experiencing the worst alcohol-related harms.

In practice, MUP will leave prices in pubs, bars and restaurants virtually untouched, and raise the price of products like supermarket own-brand vodka and super-strength lagers, which are typically consumed by the most vulnerable groups, such as children and street drinkers.

Moderate drinkers are estimated on average to barely change their consumption or spending in response to MUP.

In response to the introduction of MUP in Scotland, and commenting on the need for the measure in England, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said: “Cheap alcohol is wrecking lives and livelihoods in England as well as Scotland. There are more than 23,000 deaths a year in England due linked to alcohol, and many of these come from the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society.

“Minimum unit pricing will save lives, cut crime and benefit the public finances. At the same time, pub prices will be left untouched, and moderate drinkers will barely notice the difference under MUP.

“Any delay in implementing MUP in England will only cost lives and lead to unnecessary alcohol-related harm. We urge the Westminster government to act now.”

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