International experts in Sunderland to debate alcohol’s impact on society

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INTERNATIONAL experts are today in the North East to discuss how to curb the devastating effect alcohol abuse has on the public.

Sunderland City Council leader and chairman of the Association of North East Councils, Paul Watson, will lead the conference, organised by the region’s alcohol campaign group Balance.

Talks will centre on why the region continues to have the most alcohol-related hospital admissions, the highest rate of under 18 drink-specific hospital admissions and also the biggest number of under 18s in alcohol treatment in England.

Speakers will also debate how the North East can influence national policy and use local evidence-based measures to reduce the impact of drink abuse.

Many experts believe lives will be lost as a result of the Government’s recent decision to delay the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

Professor Tim Stockwell, of University of Victoria, in Canada, and Rosanna O’Connor, from Public Health England, are due to present their views at the event.

Coun Watson said: “We remain determined to work as a region to reduce the impact that alcohol continues to have on individuals, on families and on communities.”

The conference comes as Sunderland bar and music venue Independent, which is in Holmeside, decided to end its “50p drinks nights”.

A spokesman for the nightclub said: “Independent has decided to impose a minimum price of £1 per drink.

“Hopefully the city as a whole can work together to create a busier night-time economy without alcohol prices being the focus.”

Independent say they’ve only held one 50p night recently, when they organised one earlier this month.

Balance has campaigned for a minimum price per unit of alcohol. They say while this is a step in the right direction, more can be done.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “We welcome the decision not to sell alcoholic drinks for less than £1 but we need to stop the sale of alcohol at pocket money prices everywhere.”

He added: “The introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol of at least 50p, which gets rid of the cheapest, strongest alcohol drunk by children and heavy drinkers, without penalising moderate drinkers, is the answer.”

The organisation’s campaign is aimed at highlighting the increased risk excessive drinkers have of developing cancer.