LONDON (Reuters) - Senior doctors said on Friday the government should raise the price of alcohol as part of a series of tough measures to cut the harm caused by excessive drinking.
Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Nick Sheron, a liver specialist at Southampton University Hospital, said attempts to change people’s behaviour through education or public information had not worked.
Writing in the Christmas issue of the BMJ magazine, they said raising prices, banning alcohol advertising and reducing its availability should be considered instead.
“To suggest, as producers and retailers do, that increasing the price of alcohol would not reduce alcohol-related harm goes against the evidence and the fundamental principles of marketing — product, price, promotion, and place,” they wrote.
“How many more lives will be damaged by alcohol in the UK before our governments decide to tackle the problem with measures that are likely to work?”
The doctors argued that figures showed that alcohol was a major health and social problem.
Drink was responsible for 150,000 hospital admissions and up to 22,000 deaths in 2003.
Alcohol was also a factor in more than half of violent crimes and a third of domestic violence, with between 780 000 and 1.3 million children affected by their parents’ use of alcohol.
“This seems justification enough for society to debate what reasonable and evidence based means could reduce the harm caused by alcohol,” the doctors wrote.
The Portman Group, the body that represents the drinks industry, said the number of adult harmful drinkers was falling.
David Poley, the group’s chief executive, said better labelling was helping to educate people about the dangers.
“This commitment to responsible business and consumer education is helping to create a better, healthier drinking culture,” he said.
“Despite falling numbers of binge drinkers, too many people still drink excessively. That’s why our member companies are investing millions of pounds in the Drinkaware Trust to educate more people about sensible drinking.”
Reporting by Michael Holden