Higher alcohol taxes urged to cut drinking abuse

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LONDON, Nov 13 (Reuters) Two separate medical groups called today for higher taxes to be put on alcohol to curb rising levels of drink-related illness and violence.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said in a report that government and industry were not doing enough to help people to live healthy lives. It pointed to official statistics showing that alcohol-related deaths in Britain doubled to over 8,386 in 2005 from 4,144 in 1991.

''The government's current approach, which is to provide information and voluntary warning labels on bottles is not effective as a method of reducing excess alcohol consumption,'' said Lord Krebs, chairman of the committee that authored the report.

''The World Health Organisation has looked into this in great detail and concluded that increasing the price of alcohol, restricting availability and curbs on marketing are the effective measures,'' he told BBC Radio.

He said the government's introduction of 24-hour licensing had failed to introduce the hoped for ''continental style cafe culture'' to the country's cities ''I live in the centre of Oxford and I would challenge any minister to walk down some of the main streets in the centre of Oxford at 11 o'clock on Friday or Saturday night and show me the Continental cafe culture -- it's really far, far from the truth,'' he said.

In a separate call, a new coalition of 24 medical and patient organisations, grouped under the banner of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said there should be dedicated funding for alcohol treatment and prevention.

The grouping, led by the Royal College of Physicians, also called for higher taxes on drinks and for a ban on alcohol advertising on television before 9 pm.

REUTERS SKB RAI1554

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