Drink deaths warning

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Health experts say up to 250,000 extra lives could be lost in the next 20 years unless tough restrictions on the drinks industry are introduced.

Government plans, which include banning the sale of alcohol below cost price and increasing duty on high-strength beer, are being labelled "inconsequential".

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, past president of the Royal College of Physicians, has also called for urgent action to prevent future deaths.

Writing in the Lancet he said: "We already know from the international evidence that the main ways to reduce alcohol consumption are to increase the price and reduce the availability of alcohol, yet the Government continues to discuss implementing marginal measures while ignoring this evidence."

Prof Gilmore wrote the article with Nick Sheron, from the University of Southampton, and Chris Hawkey, of the Queen's Medical Centre, University Hospital, Nottingham.

"Just as the Government would expect us to treat our patients with effective medicines, we expect the Government to take much stronger action to protect people from alcohol-related harm, when will that happen?", Professor Gilmore added.

The authors said UK drinks producers and retailers are "reliant on people risking their health to provide profits" and noted that, according to the Department of Health, three-quarters of alcohol is consumed by hazardous and harmful drinkers.

"We urgently need an integrated approach to alcohol care services across primary and secondary care combined with a joined-up strategy which comprises a less affordable minimum unit price, targeted fiscal measures and independent regulation of alcohol advertising and promotion."

The liver death rate in the UK is 11.4 per 100,000 people, which is more than double that of other countries with similar drinking cultures, such as Australia, Holland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.

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