THE director of the North-East alcohol control office has urged the Government not to bottle it over minimum pricing for units of alcohol.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North-East alcohol office, claimed that setting a 45p minimum unit price for alcohol rather than the 50p recommended by medical experts could cost an extra thousand lives.
The Government launched a 10 week consultation on its plan to introduce a 45p minimum price per unit, claiming that it will help to reduce the levels of ill-health and harm linked to excessive consumption of alcohol by forcing up the prices of cheap cider and vodka.
But Mr Shevills urged the Government to follow the example of Scotland and set the minimum unit of alcohol price at 50p.
Mr Shevills argued that the five pence difference could result in a large number of avoidable deaths.
"Setting the price lower than 50p will realise fewer benefits. For instance, under a minimum 45p per unit we stand to save 2,288 lives - that's more than a thousand fewer lives than a minimum 50p per unit. Do we really value life so cheaply that we'd sacrifice a thousand lives for the sake of 5p extra per unit?"
Mr Shevills pointed out that minimum pricing has already reduced alcohol consumption in Canada Targeted at helping the vulnerable, research suggests a minimum 50p per unit would reduce consumption by harmful drinkers by 10 per cent and young people by 7 per cent At the same time, moderate drinkers would pay just 28p extra a week on alcohol for these benefits.
Mr Shevills added: "Importantly, a minimum unit price is backed by a majority of North-Easterners, as well as those concerned about our health and wellbeing, including eight in 10 regional GPs.
"Not only that, but a significant proportion of the alcohol industry itself wants a minimum unit price, including seven in 10 North-East publicans."
The Home Office has said the proposal to introduce minimum pricing is aimed at "harmful drinkers and irresponsible shops" and should not affect the price of a pub pint.
However, the Government's proposals have been opposed by the wine and spirits industry which has argued that responsible drinkers will suffer.