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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 08:57 GMT
Campaigners want drink price rise
glasses of wine
SHAAP wants to see minimum prices for alcoholic drinks
Health campaigners claim that raising the price of alcohol could save hundreds of lives a year.

A study by the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems Group (SHAAP) calls on the Scottish Government to introduce minimum prices for alcoholic drinks.

It said a 10% rise in drink prices would save an estimated 479 Scottish men and 265 women every year.

The Scottish Government said it shared SHAAP's concerns and was working to ban irresponsible drink promotions.

A government spokesperson added: "It's simply wrong that in a country often deluged by rain, strong cider can be cheaper than water.

"There is no doubt that the availability and low cost of alcohol is fuelling the culture of "drinking to get drunk" and the mindless violence and anti-social behaviour it causes."

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The report, published on Tuesday, said tax should be linked to alcohol strength and further limits should be put on drinks promotions.

The findings were based on international research and concluded that legislative price control was one of the most effective ways of reducing alcohol-related harm.

Dr Bruce Ritson, chairman of SHAAP, said the evidence showed a clear link between alcohol price and harm.

He added: "We believe that setting minimum prices could save the lives of almost 750 Scots every year.

"No single policy initiative will solve all the alcohol problems in our society, but price is a significant factor in rising consumption levels and associated harm.

'Too high'

"But more importantly, it is an area in which government action could make a real difference in reducing alcohol harm in Scotland which is costing us over 1bn every year."

The report - Alcohol: Price, Policy and Public Health - presents the findings of an expert workshop which looked at the options available to government to reduce alcohol-related harm.

Dr Ritson said: "The purpose of alcohol policy is to reduce levels of harm which are widely recognised as being much too high.

"The government has rightly identified alcohol as Scotland's leading public health priority.

"We urge the Scottish Government to implement the action outlined in the report today."

As well as setting prices, the campaign group, established by medical royal colleges in Scotland, want ministers to ask Westminster for an increase in duty and for taxes to be linked to inflation and alcohol strength.

Deep discounting

They have also called for an end to "irresponsible" drinks promotions and consideration of the need for an independent, regulatory body.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and convener of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, backed the recommendations.

He said: "We strongly support the public policy measures on alcohol that SHAAP is raising with the Scottish Government."

In response to the report, the government said as well as working to ban irresponsible promotions it also wanted to look very carefully at what action could be taken to tackle pricing issues such as "deep discounting".

It added that it recently brought forward regulations under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 which would require premises to display alcohol in separate areas to ensure it was not seen as an everyday commodity such as bread or milk.



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