The Methodist Church have "cautiously welcomed" reports that the government plans to enforce a minimum unit price on alcohol sales in England and Wales. But they warn that a long delay on implementation could cost lives.
Along with other churches and charities, they wrote to the Prime Minister in February asking him to introduce a minimum unit price, and have made a range of resources on the issues available as part of their 'Measure for Measure' campaign.
Prime Minister David Cameron is proposing to introduce a minimum price of 40p per unit on all alcohol sold in England and Wales. However, the exact details and time frame for implementation remain unclear.
“We are delighted that the government is resisting pressure from the drinks industry to take the action that is needed,” said Ruth Pickles, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, and a former alcohol misuse counsellor. “This move will save not only money, but lives.”
The Methodist Church pointed out that studies conducted at Sheffield University indicate that introducing a minimum unit price will have a dramatic affect on problem drinking, with only a minimal impact on moderate drinkers.
The researchers estimate that over ten years a 40p minimum unit price will save the nation £546 million in healthcare costs, £140 million in crime costs, £80 million due to workplace absence and £2.5 billion due to unemployment.
The Methodist Church are keen to point out that the savings would be even higher should the government choose to introduce a minimum unit price of 50p.
Churches and charities have warned that a delay in implementing a new policy will only worsen the damage caused by cheap alcohol to individuals and communities.
“The evidence speaks for itself,” added Ruth Pickles. “We see no reason for a delay in implementing the measures when so many academics and health professionals are backing the move. We cannot act quick enough to save lives and safeguard the vulnerable.
She added, “Things weren’t always like this. Over recent decades, Britain has developed an unhealthy drinking culture, fuelled by a drinks industry which aggressively markets its products. We would also like to see broader action taken to address the root causes of this damaging culture.”
A survey conducted in December last year revealed that 61 per cent of UK adults believe that excessive drinking is a problem (from minor to major) in their neighbourhood. The survey commissioned by the Methodist Church and their partners asked people to judge the effects of alcohol on the area within walking distance from their home, or where they use local facilities.