Page last updated at 13:52 GMT, Sunday, 8 June 2008 14:52 UK

End cheap alcohol - police chief

Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police Steve Green
Mr Green has been a police officer for 30 years

One of the UK's most senior police officers has attacked supermarkets for selling alcohol too cheaply.

Steve Green, the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire, accused the drinks industry of "making as much money out of people's miseries as they can".

He called for alcohol to be sold from behind a counter, like cigarettes.

But industry body the Portman Group, which promotes responsible drinking, said there are more effective ways to tackle underage and excessive drinking.

The government says it is reviewing the relationship between the price of alcohol, the way it is promoted and advertised, and the harm it causes.

While praising the latest efforts to clamp down on underage drinking, Mr Green believes ministers need to do battle with manufacturers and supermarkets, where alcohol is "stacked high and sold as cheap as water".

He wants alcohol to be moved from easily accessible aisles to behind the counter, and believes alcopops are the "passport" from soft drinks to alcohol and should be banned.

Protecting profits

He told the BBC: "The industry is still determined to make as much money out of people's miseries as they possibly can and they don't care who suffers as a result.

"The industry is not feeling the pinch at the moment. They have to challenge how they are selling stuff, where they are selling it and how much they are selling it for.

We need to change the drinking culture by making drunkenness socially unacceptable
Michael Thompson, of the Portman Group

"I think there needs to be some control on prices and I wouldn't have it as self-service. I would have it sold under the counter like cigarettes because alcohol is just as dangerous as tobacco."

Mr Green, who is retiring in less than a fortnight after seven years in the post, said the industry was trying to protect its profits but was working against the interests of young people and the health service.

The chief constable added that in Nottingham, the police and council were doing all they could to combat binge drinking and alcohol-related public disorder, but the drinks industry remained the "problem child".

Drinking culture

Michael Thompson, head of communications at the Portman Group, which is supported by the UK's leading drinks producers, said there were greater priorities than lowering the price of alcohol.

"We need to change the drinking culture by making drunkenness socially unacceptable, proper enforcement of alcohol laws by police, better education and a crackdown on the minority of rogue traders who serve alcohol to children should be our priorities," he said.

"There are strict controls on the marketing of alcopops and if Mr Green believes any drinks are marketed at children, he should alert us."

Earlier this month, the government outlined its new youth alcohol action plan.

Proposals included giving parents guidelines on how much alcohol their children can safely consume, and giving police the powers to disperse under-18s who are drinking and behaving anti-socially from any location.

In addition, those who fail to get their children to "change their ways" and stop abusing alcohol could be required to attend parenting courses or end up facing prosecution.

The government also plans to work with the alcohol industry to reduce the sale of alcohol to under-18s but also in marketing and promoting alcohol in a more responsible way.

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