Binge drinking should be tackled through the introduction of minimum pricing in order to combat alcohol-related ill health, according to a new report by MPs.
The Health Select Committee report quotes an estimate that between 30-40,000 deaths a year are alcohol-related and lists the cost of alcohol to society at £55.1 billion per year.
The MPs also warned that Gordon Brown’s decision to oppose a minimum price for alcohol was having a devastating effect on the nation’s health.
Last year Mr Brown dismissed the Chief Medical Officers’ suggestion of minimum pricing saying that it would unfairly penalise moderate drinkers.
The report called for the minimum price per unit of alcohol to be raised to 40 pence, four times the current level.
The MPs also attacked the 24-hour drinking laws for making the problem worse, pointing out that the promised European-style café culture hadn’t emerged.
The report accuses the Government of being more influenced by the drinks and retail industry than health officials, amid claims that drink sales would fall by 40 per cent if people drank more responsibly.
Richard Taylor, an independent MP and former doctor, said: “The one and only thing that is going to make a difference to binge drinkers injuring themselves and others, getting criminal prosecutions and having their lives ruined is if the price is put up.”
Mr Taylor also described supermarket alcohol promotions as “absolutely ridiculous”.
He said: “We’ve got to tackle the supermarkets head on because it is the only way that we’re going to reduce the terrible burden of illness.”
Currently alcohol can be bought for ten pence a unit in some shops, less than a bottle of water.
Gillian Merron, the Public Health Minister, said “current levels of alcohol-related hospital admissions, crime and deaths are unacceptable. Much more can, and will, be done to turn this around – but it won’t happen overnight.”
The Conservative Party leader David Cameron has previously blamed cheap alcohol and 24-hour drinking for fuelling crime and said that “serious changes” are needed to tackle drink-related violence and crime.
Last September Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the controversial 24-hour drinking laws implemented by his party in November 2005 were “not working”.
According to the report over three million people in the UK are addicted to alcohol with 1.3 million children suffering alcohol related abuse or neglect.
The report was compiled by eleven MPs including six from the Labour Party.