(Reuters) - Increasing the minimum price of alcohol by 10 percent can lead to immediate and significant drops in drink-related deaths and may also have long-term beneficial health effects, according to a study published on Thursday.
Canadian researchers found that deaths caused by alcohol between 2002 and 2009 in the western province of British Columbia dropped when the minimum alcohol price was increased, while alcohol-related deaths rose when more private alcohol stores were opened.
The findings will be keenly scrutinized by alcohol policy makers, particularly in Britain where the government plans to introduce a minimum price on alcohol to try to clamp down on binge drinking and anti-social behavior. The United States does not currently set a minimum alcohol price.
"This study adds to the scientific evidence that, despite popular opinion to the contrary, even the heaviest drinkers reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase," said Tim Stockwell of the University of Victoria's Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia, who led the study.
John Holmes of the alcohol research group at Britain's University of Sheffield said Stockwell's study was a major contribution to evidence about minimum alcohol pricing and gave a "strong indication that the policy has reduced the consumption levels of those drinking at hazardous and harmful levels."