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Sunderland academic shares views on minimum alcohol pricing

John Mooney, senior lecturer in public health at Sunderland University, speaks following the introduction of a minimum unit price in Scotland.
John Mooney, senior lecturer in public health at Sunderland University, speaks following the introduction of a minimum unit price in Scotland.

As a minimum unit price for alcohol is introduced in Scotland, a lecturer at Sunderland University has looked into how the legislation would go down in the North East.

John Mooney, senior lecturer in public health, has commented on similarities between parts of the country and the North East, as Scotland aims to cut alcohol deaths and hospital admissions, as well as slashing crime and reducing costs to the health service.

Some campaigners are calling for similar legislation to be introduced in England - with fears that many lives could be lost as a result of alcohol, and that the NHS will be footing a bill worth millions.

Mr Mooney has looked at parallels between the two places, adding that both areas have "some of the most longstanding and concentrated areas of social deprivation and economic disadvantage in the UK", and that the North East region has some of the worst health statistics for alcohol-related harm in England.

Scotland is setting the floor price at 50p per unit, meaning that a pint of beer containing two units will have to cost at least £1.

It also means a three-litre bottle of high-strength white cider containing the equivalent of 22 shots of vodka will cost over £11 in Scotland as opposed to as little as £3.50 in England.

Mr Mooney hailed Scotland as being at the forefront of more "fit-for-purpose" legislation surrounding alcohol licensing and availability, including health as a licensing objective.

The lecturer continued: "In principle, this has the potential to transform the capacity of public health teams in English local authorities to make much more use of information on health harms as part of the licensing process.

"This would ensure that challenges to new licence applications – however, potentially damaging the new licence may be - no longer need to be based exclusively on crime and public disorder evidence."

Read more: Time for crackdown on cheap North East booze - before more lives are lost

Since the change announcement was made for Scotland, Balance North East has been among the organisations calling for better control on the availability for cheap alcohol - and Mr Mooney has said there is a lot of work already being undertaken across the region.

Sunderland, Newcastle and Teesside Universities have also formed part of the research effort with regards to alcohol's impact on public health.

Mr Mooney added: "In brief, there are many regional policy drivers already in place for North East England to emulate Scotland’s very progressive approach to the reduction of alcohol harms."