The price cuts on alcohol are being blamed for the rise in the number of people drinking themselves to death in the UK.
The number of deaths caused by excessive drinking in England in the year 2006 was 6,517, which is almost a 20 per cent rise on the 5,476 deaths recorded in 2001, reports the Telegraph.
AdvertisementIf the rate of deaths was projected throughout Britain, about 9,000 people would have died from alcohol last year, the equivalent of 25 people a day.
The tally was compiled by the Office for National Statistics in response to a parliamentary question.
MPs of all parties are calling for Government action on supermarkets that sell alcohol more cheaply than water.
The new mortality figures coincide with a report showing that more than a third of all pre-Christmas drinks bought from big stores will have been sold at a discount.
TNS World Panel, a market research firm, estimates that consumers will spend 3·6 billion pounds on alcoholic drinks in the run-up to Christmas.
Of that, 1·2 billion pounds will be on cut-price alcohol. After the controversy over Labour's introduction of 24-hour drinking in 2005, political debate about alcohol is shifting to the prices.
A study by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University last month showed more than half of all young adults drank cheap alcohol at home before a night out.
On average they drank seven units the equivalent of three and a half pints before going out. Rising incomes and only modest increases in duty have made alcohol 65 per cent more affordable than it was 25 years ago, the ONS estimates.
The supermarket chains Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda routinely sell lager at only 22 pence a can, cheaper than bottled water. The prices for spirits and white wine are being slashed.
Safe drinking campaigners say it is impossible for supermarkets to make any profit on a 20 pounds bottle of vodka, if 88 per cent of the sale price is being passed straight to the Treasury through VAT and duty.
Under mounting pressure from charities and MPs, Gordon Brown has commissioned a review of alcohol drinks promotions.
The charity Alcohol Concern gave warning last night that cheaper drinks had created a "growing public health crisis".
A spokesman said people were drinking more because of a relaxed tax policy, drinks promotions and alcohol being sold as a loss-leader.
Shailesh Vara, the Tory MP who obtained the mortality figures, blamed the changing economy and culture.
"This is caused by the availability of cheap alcohol in supermarkets and a cultural attitude that it is acceptable to drink to excess," he said.
John Grogan, the Labour chairman of the all party Parliamentary Beer Group, castigated the supermarkets for selling alcohol "below the price of water".
Jeremy Beadles, the Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, insisted that the drinks industry was taking "substantial action" to reduce problem drinking.
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