By Alex Stevenson
The Labour government's failure to prevent 'deep discounting' of drinks has affected an entire generation of young people, Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker has claimed.
Mr Shenker said thousands of young people had been affected by the government's "lack of focus" on alcohol-related harm and that this had been resolved "only recently".
The government's policing and crime bill published last month contains plans for a mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers.
But this comes too late for the young people who have taken advantage of the "deep discounting" on offer by some supermarket chains, Mr Shenker claimed. The price of a can of lager has fallen to as little as 22p while pub chain JD Wetherspoon announced it is cutting the price of some of its pints to just £1.
"We've had a whole cohort of young adults and children affected by binge drinking and turning up to hospital in rising numbers with alcohol-related illnesses," he told politics.co.uk.
The NHS currently spends £2.7 billion on treating alcohol-related harm and the criminal justice system spends £7.9 billion on alcohol-related crime and disorder, according to Alcohol Concern.
As a result Mr Shenker argues it is worth the country's while ending the selling of cut-price alcohol - even if the drinks industry pays the price.
"We wouldn't want to see any downturn in the drinks industry's profit," he added.
"Our motivation is that alcohol should be sold responsibly - but it's clear if there are going to be restrictions there may be some elements of the drinks industry who suffer as a result of that."
Alcohol Concern prefers a minimum pricing regime which would see each unit cost at least 40p. This would barely affect moderate drinkers but would be enough to significantly reduce alcohol consumption by those most affected.
While admitting the introduction of minimum pricing remains unlikely in Britain in the future, Mr Shenker stands by his claim that allowing the binge-drinking trend to continue will not help Britain's recessionary economy.
"I think the argument still stands it's cheaper for the country to sell alcohol responsibly than irresponsibly," he finished.