19/11/2012 - RPS supports call for minimum unit price for alcohol

RPS supports call for minimum unit price for alcohol

The RPS has joined forces with the Alcohol Health Alliance UK and other professional bodies to publish a letter in the Sunday Times, calling for a minimum price for alcohol of 50p per unit.  Recent figures show over 10.5 million adults drink in excess of the recommended guidelines and around 2.5 million children live with hazardous drinkers.  Alcohol misuse is widely recognised as being a major health concern and the effects of problem drinking are widespread, costing the taxpayer an estimated £2.7bn a year.  The Society has a helpful resource for members wanting to help patients with their alcohol use, a Quick Reference Guide on alcohol disorders and useful background information about alcohol including the classification of drinkers and the number of units in some common drinks.

Sir,

Much debate about the problems of alcohol focuses on individual drinkers, in terms of both health and social impacts. Less attention is given to victims who are invisible to the public eye. As the recent report from the children’s commissioner for England highlighted, young people and families all too often suffer the consequences of problem drinking, with some 2.5m children in the UK living with a hazardous drinker.

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK and other organisations with an interest in safeguarding children and families support the commissioner’s call for the government to take action. We support its commitment to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol and call for this to be set at 50p in the first instance. This policy will tackle head-on the problems caused by cheap drink, not only to drinkers but to those around them — the innocent victims of alcohol harm.

Minimum unit pricing will target the heaviest drinkers: those who cause the most damage to themselves and others. A child who lives with a problem drinker is vulnerable to neglect, violence and abuse, and a significant number of child protection cases are linked to alcohol. It is essential that the government stands firm in tackling problem drinking in order to turn the tide of alcohol harm. While minimum unit pricing is not a silver bullet, there is good evidence to suggest it will make a real difference. Harmful alcohol consumption affects more than just the drinker. We must support measures to help protect the next generation.

Yours faithfully,

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Alcohol Health Alliance and British Society of Gastroenterology;Dr Vivienne Nathanson, British Medical Association; Dr Clare Gerada, Royal College of General Practitioners; Martin Astbury, President, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and others.