19 November 2012

Minimum Pricing for Alcohol ‘Will Protect Young People’

Setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol, as recommended by NICE, will protect young people from the dangers of excessive drinking, according to a new report.

The report jointly produced by Alcohol Concern and Balance to coincide with Alcohol Awareness Week, states that cheap alcohol encourages young people to drink to excess, making them susceptible to alcohol-related harm.

It says that 63 per cent of 16-24 year olds surveyed for the report agreed or strongly agreed that cheap alcohol promotions encourage 'drinking to get drunk'.

Additionally, 69 per cent of young people agreed that differences in the price of alcohol bought from off-licences and alcohol bought from pubs and bars influences how people drink.

Young people agreed that promotions such as ‘buy one get one free' offers urge them to drink more than they would normally. Such offers also mean they find it cheaper to drink than to participate in other social activities, such as going to the cinema.

To tackle these trends, the report calls for the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol, as recommended by NICE.

NICE says setting an appropriate level per unit will reduce consumption among young drinkers, as they are more price sensitive than other groups.

NICE's pathway on alcohol-use disorders states that making alcohol less affordable is the most effective way of reducing alcohol-related harm.

It recommends that the minimum price should be set by taking into account the health and social costs of alcohol-related harm and its impact on consumption.

This minimum price should be regularly reviewed to ensure alcohol does not become more affordable over time.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Public Health Excellence Centre at NICE, said: "We welcome calls for a minimum pricing per unit of alcohol, as we know that the younger drinkers are more likely to seek cheapest forms of alcohol.

"Minimum pricing is an effective way to prevent this and to reduce excess consumption among younger people."

Tom Smith, Programme Policy Manager at Alcohol Concern, said: "This is further proof of the impact cheap alcohol is having on the health and wellbeing of our young people.

"They have told us loud and clear that the way in which alcohol is priced influences the way they drink."

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, added: "Minimum unit price won't affect the price of a pint in the pub and will only cost a moderate drinker an extra 28p each week.

"The measure will save lives, reduce hospital admissions and cut crime, as well as protect young people. We believe it's a small price to pay."

The report also found that 61 per cent of children and young people agree or strongly agree that alcohol advertising which associates drinking with having fun influences expectations of drinking or being drunk.

NICE's pathway on alcohol-use disorders recommends that the potential costs and benefits of a complete alcohol advertising ban should be assessed to protect children and young people from exposure to alcohol marketing.

In addition, a review of current advertising codes should be conducted to ensure that children and young people's exposure to alcohol is as low as possible.

NICE recently produced a public health briefing on alcohol that features tailored information for local authorities, and includes recommendations on what can be done to ensure that children and young people are protected from alcohol advertising as much as possible.