A minimum price should be introduced for alcohol and the government should consider a complete ban on alcohol advertising, health experts said today.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issued new guidance calling for a crackdown on cheap alcohol.
It stopped short of saying what the minimum price should be, although the Faculty of Public Health and the British Medical Association are among those backing a 50p per unit minimum.
Last month, Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy said he was in favour of a minimum price, adding that binge drinking was one of the most serious issues facing the country.
The coalition government has said supermarkets and off-licences will be banned from selling alcohol below cost price.
Stores will be blocked from using alcohol as a “loss leader” as ministers try to cut crime and health problems linked to binge drinking.
Today’s guidance for England recommends a raft of measures, including making alcohol less easy to buy.
This could include cutting how much holidaymakers are allowed to bring into the country from abroad, and reducing the number of shops selling alcohol as well as the days and hours it can be bought.
Councils should look at how many shops are already selling drink in an area to check if a place is “saturated” before granting new licences.
Professor Mike Kelly, NICE public health director, said such a move would “not penalise” trade drinking or pubs but would tackle the “aggressive promotion of heavily discounted alcohol” in supermarkets.
Evidence suggests that a 50p minimum price would lead to a 3.8% cut in how much moderate drinkers consume and a 10.3% cut for those drinking at levels hazardous to their health.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Regarding NICE’s recommendations on minimum pricing for units of alcohol, it is not clear that the research examines specifically the regressive effect on low-income families, or proves conclusively that it is the best way to impact price in order to impact demand.”