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Campaigners urge Government to act over minimum pricing for alcohol
THE North-East campaign group which has been one of the loudest voices in the call for action over cheap booze has urged the Government to stand firm on minimum unit pricing.
The call by Balance, the North-East Alcohol Office, follows reports of a Cabinet split which could mean that minimum alcohol pricing is going to be shelved.
Prime Minister David Cameron today insisted he remains determined to crack down on problem drinking.
He said the Government was still examining the results of a consultation on the policy amid mounting speculation the move he personally championed will be abandoned.
A base price of 45p per unit in England and Wales has been suggested but a number of Cabinet ministers, including Home Secretary Theresa May, have made clear they harbour doubts.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: "We congratulate the Government for looking at the strong evidence to support minimum unit pricing and proposing to introduce this targeted policy that promises to save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of crimes.
"Here in the North-East we know that it is needed and it is wanted - evidence also tells us that it works. Our region continues to suffer from some of the highest levels of alcohol harm.
"Importantly most people in the region have backed call for the introduction of a minimum unit price.
"It is supported by the majority of the North-East public, it is supported by our GPs, it is supported by our police and it is supported our publicans.
"Doctors, the police, emergency services and leading children's charities all publically endorse MUP, and recent public opinion polls show the majority of people support tough action on alcohol too.
"We urge the Government to stand firm on minimum unit pricing in the confidence that the evidence gets stronger, and the support base wider, for this policy by the day."
Kevan Martin, a former alcholic who set up a highly successful support network for problem drinkers known as NERAF (Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction), said minimum pricing was needed to stop young people buying alchohol "for pocket money prices."
Otherwise "It is going to be an ever increasing burden to health, crime and society," he added.
Liver specialist Dr Steve Masson, from the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, said it would be "a missed opportunity" if the Government failed to bring in minimum pricing.