Skip to comments.Double drink prices, urges doctors -
Posted on 03/05/2004 12:00:54 PM PST by UnklGene
Double drink prices, urge doctors -
By Celia Hall, Medical Editor (Filed: 05/03/2004)
Doctors called yesterday for the price of alcohol to be almost doubled in an attempt to reduce the harm caused by excessive drinking.
The Academy of Medical Sciences, an independent body of senior doctors and researchers, has concluded that attitudes to drinking need to change.
Click to enlarge The best way to cut the amount people drink is to limit the affordability and availability of alcohol, they say.
The doctors' leader, Prof Sir Michael Marmot, said: "Alcohol is a good friend and a bad enemy. We are not against alcohol. It gives pleasure and also confers health benefits."
However, the academy argues that drinking levels should return to those of the early 1970s when the population drank on average seven litres of alcohol per head a year. This compares with the 11.1 litres now consumed. The figures represent a rise of 50 per cent in 30 years.
They say there is a direct link between the relative cheapness of alcohol and the increasing amounts consumed.
The doctors have called for the price of beer, wine and spirits to be increased to 1970 levels. In relative terms alcohol was nearly twice as expensive 30 years ago, they say.
Sir Michael, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University College London, said such measures would have a greater impact on the pockets of young people who drank too much than on people who drank sensibly. "We believe that if you can reduce the average you will also be able to do something about the heavy drinkers," he said.
"A strategic programme is needed to curb the nation's escalating level of drinking in the interests of individual and public health. The country has reached a point where it is necessary and urgent to call time on runaway alcohol consumption."
The academy's report, Calling Time, also proposes limits on the amount of alcohol people can bring in from Europe and lower drink driving limits - down from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg and to zero for drivers younger than 21.
The report says the current travellers' allowance gives a heavy drinker a 272-day supply.
They say this should be reduced to the permitted level of nicotine imported for personal use which gives a 20-a-day smoker a 40-day supply.
"Educational approaches have been disappointing but this may be swamped by contrary advertising," the report says. "Price modulation usually through tax increase is highly effective, particularly in under-age drinkers.
"A 10 per cent rise in the price of all alcoholic beverages has been estimated to reduce mortality from alcohol-related conditions by seven to 37 per cent."
Prof Ian Gilmore, registrar of the Royal College of Physicians and a member of the working party, accepted that their recommendations would not please politicians. "The report makes it very clear that targeting problem drinkers is not sufficient," Prof Gilmore said.
"It collects the compelling evidence that one of the most effective ways of reducing harm to individuals is to reduce the escalating national consumption of alcohol.
"This challenge makes alcohol an issue for society as a whole, and we encourage a wide debate on the policy options of proven benefit, such as increasing price and limiting access, unpalatable to politicians though they may be. The doctors said that drinking at levels of one or two drinks a day provided proven health benefits but that higher amounts began to do harm.
Deaths from chronic liver disease had risen from 124 in men and 86 in women, aged 45 to 54, in 1970 to 805 and 405 respectively in 2000. Alcohol is responsible for 70 per cent of cirrhosis deaths.
Prof Gilmore said: "I now see liver cirrhosis in people in their 20s and 30s, pretty women, who think they will get a warning sign. But the first thing you know is that you go yellow and your belly swells up. People are not just drinking more, they are drinking younger."
The report says that over 30 years chronic liver disease has escalated by more than 450 per cent.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said the Cabinet was producing its own report on reducing harm caused by alcohol in the next few weeks.
Maybe the intrusion of government busybodies into the most mundane of individual activities is driving more people to drink.
"In related news, drinkers have been reported being 'slightly' upset with the suggestion, and have decided to pay the doctors a friendly 'visit'. Now back to you..."
Thanks for the advice, mom.
Pity people who enjoy drinking! But now they give the smoker a rest? Going after drinkers and the obese. Oh boy! It never ends, does it!
Great, mind if I tax your internet? How about tripling your gasoline tax?
Then I guess you approve of removing the laws banning distilling your own spirits?
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