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Minimum alcohol price 'a PR stunt'

The government's new Alcohol Strategy plans to turn the tide against irresponsible drinking which costs the UK £21bn a year with measures including a minimum unit price of 40p for alcohol in England and Wales and banning multi-buy discount deals.

Sir Ian Gilmore, the Royal College of Physicians' special adviser on alcohol, told the Today programme's John Humphrys that the "evidence is incontrovertible" that prices are the biggest driver in increasing alcohol consumption.

He said "we are now seeing supermarkets selling drink at pocket money prices" and increasing the unit price of alcohol will hit the very heavily discounted cheap drink that is available in supermarkets.

But Gavin Partington, of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, disagreed and said that international evidence pointed to the fact that problem drinkers were not going to be discouraged by higher prices and called the measure "grossly unfair" which was "a PR stunt designed to distract from the real issue which effects a minority".

"This punishes the poorest in our society," he said, adding that this was a "cheap shot at retailers who are trying to offer best value for customers over a broad range of products".

He said that a wider range of policy measures which includes education.

But Sir Ian insisted that the evidence is there that "price is the biggest single driver" in alcohol consumption which benefited from only affecting unit price, rather than as a tax which would affect all alcohol.

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