UK's top medic looks to take on "binge drinking"

Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:59am EDT
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By Luke Baker

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's chief doctor is expected to advise the government on Monday to sharply raise the price of alcohol to try to combat soaring levels of so-called "binge drinking," especially among young people.

In a report, chief medical officer Liam Donaldson is expected to recommend that the government set a minimum price of 50 pence ($0.70) per unit of alcohol sold, which would nearly double the price of some discount beer and wine.

The advice, which would be non-binding on the government, follows consistent evidence that Britain has a worsening problem with teenage drinking and with "binge drinking" in general -- when vast quantities are consumed in a short space of time.

The latest government statistics show that nearly 40 percent of men and a quarter of women exceed the recommended daily limit on alcohol consumption, while young people and teenagers are consuming ever more quantities of high-alcohol "alcopops."

Scotland, which has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world, said last month it was looking into setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol and Donaldson's recommendations would follow much the same approach.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, which revealed details of his proposals, said it was particularly aimed at raising the price of highly discounted supermarket beer and wine.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said she could not comment on the report as it was not yet published but said the government was looking to tackle issues with discount alcohol.

"We have not ruled out taking action on very cheap alcohol -- it's clearly linked to people drinking more and the subsequent harm to their health," the spokeswoman said.   Continued...