Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The real cost of alcohol

What is the cost of a bottle of whisky or beer? No I don't mean the price I mean the cost. The real cost has to take account of the effects of alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption is linked to more than 60 medical conditions. The total cost of alcohol harm has been estimated as £20 billion in England, £680 million in Northern Ireland, £3.6bn in Scotland and £1bn in Wales. These figures include more than £2bn in healthcare costs. That is a big price to pay! The £20 billion in England would be enough to fill the gap in NHS funding. 

The BMA has a campaign to increase the price of alcohol. Now a new study by Cardiff University has highlighted the link between the price of alcohol and the fall in violent crime.


Commenting on the findings of study, Professor Sheila Hollins, Chair of the BMA's Board of Science, has said:

"A drop violent crime is positive news, especially if linked to changes in drinking habits.

"With the costs of alcohol related harm estimated at £25bn across the UK, of which more than £3bn is on healthcare, there are clear economic, social and public health cases for tackling problem drinking.

"We know there is a link between the cost and consumption of alcohol, highlighted again in this study, which is why the BMA is calling for a minimum unit price of at least 50p per unit to tackle problem drinking.

"This makes the government's U-turn on minimum pricing, as well as their decision to scrap the alcohol escalator and reduce beer duty, all the more worrying.

"Alcohol misuse places serious strain on a number of already overstretched public services which is why doctors, the police and emergency services all support minimum unit pricing.

"Prevention is better - and cheaper - than cure, and if the government is serious about tackling alcohol related harm, it needs review its position on minimum unit pricing, which would reduce harm amongst the heaviest drinkers while leaving responsible drinkers largely unaffected."

Here are some sobering facts about alcohol consumption:

More than 10 million adults in England are drinking more than the recommended daily limit.
80% of purchases are made by 30% of the population.
Alcohol-related deaths in the UK doubled from 4,023 in 1992 to 8,790 in 2010.

Excess alcohol consumption costs lives. That is the true cost. 

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