CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed Government plans for a minimum price for alcohol – but say it should still be higher.
Ministers announced this week that a 10-week consultation is being opened into selling booze for 45p per unit.
But those campaigning to bring in new measures say if it was 5p higher, it would save 1,000 more lives.
As part of the proposals, a ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals could also be implemented.
It is estimated that alcohol abuse costs the Sunderland economy more than £50million each year.
Landlord Jess McConnell, who runs The Isis, in Silksworth Row, said he had hoped the consultation would be on a price of 50p per unit, as pubs try to compete against cheap supermarket drinks deals.
“At least it’s a step in the right direction,” said Mr McConnell, a publican with 30 years’ experience in the trade.
“I was hoping it would be a little bit higher because it’s never been as tough out there for pubs as it is now. This will only be a help for us.”
North East alcohol office Balance, which has been campaigning for a minimum price, says the move would reduce antisocial behaviour, cut crime and alcohol admissions as well as unemployment.
It argues that if the unit price was 5p higher, at 50p, 1,000 more lives would be saved.
Colin Shevils, director of Balance, said: “This consultation is a real opportunity to make significant progress in tackling alcohol misuse, as long as we set a minimum unit price of at least 50p.
“As with anything, with minimum unit price you get what you pay for. Setting the price lower than 50p will realise fewer benefits.
“For instance, under a minimum 45p per unit we stand to save 2,288 lives – that’s more than 1,000 fewer lives than a minimum 50p per unit.
“Do we value life so cheaply that we’d sacrifice 1,000 lives for the sake of 5p extra per unit?”
James Crosbie, a consultant gastroenterologist at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: “I very much welcome the move towards a minimum unit price of alcohol, but an extra 5p swould bring more benefits and save more lives.
“It is disappointing to know that we have an opportunity to bring into place a unit price of at least 50p, but a lower level has been proposed. We will continue to push for 50p.
“It is devastating to see people dying of liver disease related to alcohol in the numbers we see.
“We are working against a huge tide of increasing problems. A minimum price per unit will help reduce hospital admissions and save lives.”