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Doctors back more tax on booze

BMA urges life-saving price hike

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The British Medical Association has supported the suggestion that a hike in tax on booze could help combat the UK's binge-drinking culture.

Earlier this week Professor Julian le Grand, the chairman of Health England, called for the price of alcohol to be raised as part of a raft of proposals aimed at tackling the problem. He said: "The price of alcohol, particularly of the kind that is directed at the young such as alcopops, has been disgracefully low."

Professor le Grand further called for the sale of alcohol to be banned in supermarkets. Tesco responded by suggesting the government rather ban the sale of "cut-price" drink, something which also found favour with the BMA.

The BMA says that "a quarter of all drink-related deaths could be prevented by a ten per cent rise in taxes on beer, wine and spirits", according to the Telegraph. Specifically, Sir Charles George, the chairman of the BMA science and education board, claimed such a hike would prevent "29 per cent of alcohol-related deaths in men and 27 per cent in women". The number of deaths linked to drinking has apparently more than doubled from 4,144 in 1991 to 8,758 in 2006.

The BMA weighed into the government for being "too close" to the drinks industry, said 24-hour drinking "contributes to the public health problem" and blamed "drunken celebrities... such as the Arctic Monkeys at this week's Brit awards, of being bad role models".

The BMA ethics committee's Dr Vivienne Nathanson said: "We have a public health emergency and people need to be prepared to look at an increase in price. They may not want to pay more but they also don't want to see their neighbours, their children and their friends dying from liver failure in their 20s and 30s. Recent governments have worked too closely with the alcohol industry and have pursued policies of deregulation and liberalisation regarding alcohol control."

And just to make sure we all understand how serious the problem is, the the BMA additionally called for warning labels on alcoholic beverages, as well as a cut in the drink-driving limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg. ®

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