Cap on booze price could help North East's drink problem, says Sunderland expert
A Sunderland health expert has called on the North East to follow Scotland’s lead by slapping a price cap on alcohol.
The suggestion by John Mooney, a senior lecturer in Public Health at the University of Sunderland, comes as a new report in the British Medical Journal suggests introducing a minimum pricing unit (MUP) north of the border has been a success in reducing the amount of booze bought and consumed.
Balance, which works in the North East to reduce the intake of alcohol, has previously said pricing drink by its strength and increasing tax on the type of strong cheap cider popular with street drinkers and teenagers, would save lives and reduce the burden on frontline services.
With the region suffering similar levels of harm from alcohol, an accompanying editorial by Mr Mooney, co-authored by Eric Carlin from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, says the region’s health could significantly benefit from a similar move.
In May last year, the Scottish Government introduced a limit of 50p per unit below which alcohol cannot be sold.
Research into its first eight months found the greatest impact was on households who bought the most alcohol, suggesting it had made buying cheap, strong alcohol less affordable, which should have an impact on health over time.
Mr Mooney said: “The impact of the policy has been greatest in those households who purchase the most alcohol and for cheap high strength beverages such as own label spirits and high strength beers and ‘white’ ciders.
“The North East has some of the highest rates of alcohol harm in England, although less than in Scotland.
“The paper’s results present a strong case for extending MUP to England – particularly where there are high rates of alcohol misuse, such as the North East.”
Mr Mooney and Mr Carlin point out that, in an age when complex public health issues require whole-system approaches, no single policy should be seen as an answer, with the MUP regarded in Scotland as one component of the overall strategy.