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Passive drinking a killer - top doctor

Tuesday March 17th, 2009

Cheap alcohol and "passive drinking" is killing Britain, the country's chief medical officer claimed yesterday.

The average British adult consume the equivalent of 120 bottles of wine a year, according to chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson.

In his annual report Sir Liam makes a controversial call to set a minimum price for drink at 50p a unit.

Sir Liam called for drinking to be treated the same way as smoking a few years ago - with excessive drinking made socially unacceptable.

But his policies were sharply rejected by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

He said: "England has a drink problem and the whole of society bears the burden. The passive effects of heavy drinking on innocent parties are easily underestimated and frequently ignored.

"The concept of passive drinking and the devastating collateral effect that alcohol can have on others must be addressed on a national scale. Cheap alcohol is killing us as never before.

"The quality of life of families and in cities and towns up and down the country is being eroded by the effects of excessive drinking."

But Mr Brown said yesterday: "We don't want the responsible, sensible majority of moderate drinkers to have to pay more or suffer as a result of the excesses of a minority."

However professional organisations welcomed the report.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Alcohol misuse is an issue that nurses are faced with on a daily basis, and a major societal health concern.

"The RCN again calls for the introduction of a single mandatory code that applies to the whole alcohol industry to provide effective regulation to ensure retailers don't engage in unscrupulous practices which encourage customers to drink to excess."

The Royal College of Physicians said the number of hospital admissions linked to alcohol had doubled in ten years, reaching 187,000 in 2005-6.

RCP president Professor Ian Gilmore said: "Over the past twenty years, as alcohol has grown progressively more affordable, the rates of chronic illness and acute injuries stemming from its misuse have soared.

"A minimum unit price would mean the end of deep discounting that young people and heavy drinkers rely upon to source large quantities of alcohol. It also should have little impact on those who drink in moderation, as in most cases the alcohol they buy now will already be sold above any minimum price per unit."

The report also calls for measures to reduce the use of antibiotics - ensuring that new classes of the drugs should be restricted by prescription.

And it calls for better diagnosis of prostate cancer, to ensure men are only treated for dangerous, aggressive tumours.

And he calls for all health professionals to be trained in the treatment of chronic pain - along with a national network of rapid-access pain clinics.

Tags: UK News | Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Menís Health

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