Calls for tighter restrictions on cheap alcohol
A health leader preparing to step down has again hit out at the price of alcohol and the effects it has on communities.
Colin Shevills is preparing to step down as director of Balance after 12 years at the helm of the North East alcohol office.
Along with his collgeagues, he set up Balance in 2009 and has spearheaded a series of high profile health campaigns and campaigned for measures to reduce harm from alcohol.
Deaths from alcohol hit a new high during the first nine months of 2020, up 16 per cent on the same months in 2019 and the biggest toll recorded since records began in 2001.
In the North East alcohol deaths increased by 15 per cent in the first same period, mostly from alcohol-related liver disease.
Ahead of stepping down on March 31, Colin said: “As alcohol has got cheaper, the harm to individuals and communities has got worse.
"Alcohol is too affordable, too heavily advertised and too available and it is a scandal that people can buy a week’s worth of alcohol for the price of a coffee.
“If the Government is serious about levelling up and reducing health inequalities we need to tackle this to reduce harm to individuals, reduce pressure on our emergency services and raise much needed money to invest in our public services.
“As a priority we need pricing policies which tackle the cheapest and strongest alcohol to bring an end to the rising burden of alcohol-harm and death.
"And we need greater investment in our specialist treatment services to help those who are already dependent on alcohol.
“As with COVID, most of the harm falls on the most deprived in our communities.
"This is particularly worrying in the North East that, even before COVID, already suffered from the highest rates of alcohol-related death and illness in England.
"Introducing a new strategy and tackling the scourge of cheap alcohol would help prove that the Government are serious about tackling health inequalities.”