Raising drink price 'saves lives'

AlcoholRaising the price of alcoholic drinks can save significant numbers of lives, a study has found.

Researchers in Canada found that a 10% increase in minimum price of drinks led to rates of alcohol-related death being cut by almost a third.

The 32% impact was bigger than had been expected, said the scientists, who carried out their investigation between 2002 and 2009 after minimum-price limits for alcoholic drinks were set in British Columbia.

At the same time, the establishment of newly-licensed private liquor stores had an opposite effect.

A 10% increase in numbers of the stores was associated with a 2% increase in alcohol-related deaths.

Previously, alcohol could only be sold directly to the public from a small number of government-owned stores.

Raising the price of cheaper drinks reduced the consumption of heavier drinkers, said the researchers, writing in the journal Addiction.

The study suggested that in some cases the impact on death rates of a minimum pricing policy may be delayed by one or two years.

Lead author Dr Tim Stockwell, from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, said: "This study adds to the scientific evidence that, despite popular opinion to the contrary, even the heaviest drinks reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase. It is hard otherwise to explain the significant changes in alcohol-related deaths observed in British Columbia."

The researchers focused on "wholly alcohol-attributable deaths" which included causes such as poisoning, psychosis, heart problems, pancreatitis and gastritis.
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