Binge drinking bombshell

Britain's chief doctor is expected to advise the government to raise the price of alcohol to try to combat soaring levels of "binge drinking."

by: Luke Baker: Reuters | 16 Mar 2009

In a report, chief medical officer Liam Donaldson is expected to recommend that the government set a minimum price of 50 pence (R7.00) per unit of alcohol sold, which would nearly double the price of some discount beer and wine.

The advice, which would be non-binding on the government, follows consistent evidence that Britain has a worsening problem with teenage drinking and with "binge drinking" in general – when vast quantities are consumed in a short space of time.

The latest government statistics show that nearly 40 percent of men and a quarter of women exceed the recommended daily limit on alcohol consumption, while young people and teenagers are consuming ever more quantities of high-alcohol "alcopops."

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, which revealed details of his proposals, said it was particularly aimed at raising the price of highly discounted supermarket beer and wine.

Le "Binge Drinking"
Britain has the 10th highest alcohol consumption in the world, according to the World Health Organization, with the equivalent of nearly 12 litres of pure alcohol consumed by each member of the population per year.

The National Health Service spends more than $4 billion a year treating alcohol-related illnesses, with around 400,000 people admitted to hospital with drink problems, according to government figures. A sizeable number are children under 14.

Taking into account the costs of policing, the number of working hours lost to hangovers, and the vandalism caused by drunken behaviour, the annual cost of alcohol misuse is estimated to be as high as 25 billion pounds ($38 billion).

While drinks' manufacturers are concerned new government measures could discriminate against those who are responsible drinkers, the public is broadly aware that Britain has a problem and that its poor reputation needs addressing.

In France and Italy, the press have adopted the English expression "binge drinking" to describe burgeoning problems with youth drinking that have alarmed commentators there.

Are we heading the same way in SA?

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