The British Medical Association (BMA) today called on the Government to increase the taxation on alcohol, introduce legislation restricting drinks promotions and amend the Licensing Act to include public health stipulations.
Citing figures that alcohol consumption has risen steady over the past 15 years, from eight litres of pure alcohol per head annually in 1990 to 10 litres per head in 2005, the BMA said that alcohol abuse had reached "epidemic" proportions.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science at the BMA, said that successive governments had become too close to the drinks lobby and urged politicians to "show leadership" and make "tough decisions" in the name of public health.
"The number of outlets selling alcohol should be controlled and the way in which those outlets sell alcohol has to be controlled," she added.
Nathanson recommended that licensing boards evaluate areas for the density of licensed premises and to work closely with the police to reduce these "cluster areas".
The BMA report: Alcohol Misuse: Tackling the UK epidemic, called on the drink and hospitality industry to dump voluntary codes for drinks promotions and introduce statutory codes for the sale of alcohol.
It also argued that there was a direct correlation between a rise in taxation on alcohol and the reduction of alcohol consumption levels.
Nathanson said that statutory controls for loss-leaders was "necessary" and would save lives.
Tesco today said legislation was required to "ensure responsible pricing on alcohol" but insisted competition laws prevented it from discussing an industry-wide alcohol price increase with its rivals.
But Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, countered: "Every day, pubs and bars have to make the commercial and moral decision not to compete on price and to resist irresponsible promotions.
"It beggars belief to suggest that the UK's biggest off-licence retailer is unable to do the same."
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By Christopher Walton
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