Thousands of lives would be saved if minimum pricing on alcohol was introduced, a university study has said.
The University of Sheffield study also said moderate drinkers would benefit from minimum alcohol pricing.
It claimed that an alcohol price rise, which would be a result of minimum pricing, would cause responsible drinkers to consume less, cutting rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
But the President of the Royal College of Physicians warned minimum pricing was not a “silver bullet” for alcohol related harm.
Sheffield researchers said 2,900 lives would be saved after ten years if minimum pricing was introduced at 50p a unit.
Their study, which was published in The Lancet medical journal, claimed the NHS would save £270 million a year from a 50p-a-unit minimum pricing move.
There would also be a resultant 41,000 fewer cases of chronic illness, as well as 92,000 fewer hospital admissions linked to alcohol, it said.
There has been debate over how minimum pricing would hit moderate drinkers financially, but the Sheffield researchers said people who drank responsible amounts would face only a £12 a year increase.
Dr Robin Purshouse, who led the team of researchers, said that the range of benefits from minimum pricing covers not only problems associated with heavy drinking but also those linked to moderate consumption.
A 50p minimum price for a unit of alcohol would mean a standard bottle of wine could not be sold for less than £4.50, a two litre bottle of cider for £5.50, and the average six pack of lager for £6.
Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “A minimum unit price is not a silver bullet for alcohol-related harm.
“It represents just one of a raft of measures, but to omit it from policy would be to disregard the compelling evidence supporting it.”
Andrew Opie, from the British Retail Consortium, said that minimum pricing penalises responsible drinkers.
Mr Opie said that supermarkets are “driving a culture of sensible drinking” by using unit labelling to help people regulate how much they drink and preventing underage sales.
But accusations that bargain booze deals are helping to fuel Britain’s binge drinking crisis were bolstered by a recent revelation about online sales.
In January 25 per cent of all beer sold online at Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Ocado was discounted, according to The Daily Telegraph.
That was a seven per cent increase on the same period last year.