When the government included measures to address the problems caused by the wide availability of cheap alcohol in its National Alcohol Strategy back in March 2012, the north east had more reasons than most to celebrate.
However, it seems that our celebrations were premature.
Last month the government made it clear that minimum unit price (MUP) will not be introduced any time soon, and multi-buy offers such as three bottles of wine for the price of two will be allowed to stay.
This decision comes at a time when the evidence in support of MUP is getting stronger.
We know it targets those people most in need – heavy drinkers and children who seek out strong, cheap alcohol.
We know it saves lives, reduces hospital admissions and cuts crime while not affecting the price of a pint or glass of wine in a pub.
Now we know it works in practice. Research indicates that in British Columbia in Canada a ten per cent increase in minimum price results in a 32 per cent fall in wholly attributable deaths from alcohol.
In contrast, the below cost ban introduced by the government is 50 times less effective than MUP, and it will still be possible for our children to get their hands on a two-litre bottle of strong cider for £1.43.
Put together with the recent decision not to introduce standardised packaging on cigarettes – which also leaves our children at risk – the government’s delay in introducing MUP represents a blow to public health.
We welcome Public Health England’s commitment to look again at the evidence base because we believe it can only come to one conclusion – that unlike banning sales at below cost price, minimum unit price will make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable people in the north east.
Director of Public Health
Northumberland Care Trust
South Tyneside Council
Durham County Council
Newcastle City Council
Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council
Hartlepool Borough Council
North Tyneside Council
Darlington Borough Council
Sunderland City Council
Stockton Borough Council