BURNLEY MP Gordon Birtwistle has called for a ban on cheap booze after shock figures revealed that the effects of alcohol cost every person in Burnley £384 a year.
The crippling costs to the NHS, police, employers and social services have prompted the charity DrinkWise to call on Lancashire County Council to implement minimum pricing.
And Mr Birtwistle, who lost a family friend to alcohol abuse when he was a child, said he would support such a scheme.
Damning reports to the Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale three-tier forums show that alcohol-related illness cost the health service £22.79million across the three boroughs in 2011/12.
Mr Birtwistle described the 111 deaths attributed to alcohol in the same period as ‘a tragedy’.
He said: “I think it’s a shame that people have got to this level where they are drinking themselves to death.
“I don’t drink so perhaps I’ll never know their situation, but it’s a tragedy. It is not, however, a new thing. It’s been going on forever.
“A friend of my family died of this very addiction when I was 10 years old. It may be more of an issue now but I still think every case is a tragedy.
“It costs the NHS a fortune trying to save people’s lives, but what can you do? We live in a free society but we need to help sooner.
“Would I support minimum pricing like they’re doing in Scotland? I would like to see it. It’s particularly important that supermarkets can’t sell four cans of strong lager for the same price of one pint in a pub.”
The reports put the cost of alcohol-fuelled crime across the three boroughs at £35.5million a year, while sick days cost businesses £34.34million annually.
Social services departments also face an annual bill of £6.12million for assisting families affected by alcohol abuse.
A group hoping to raise awareness of minimum unit pricing for alcohol, set up by the Cumbria and Lancashire Public Health Collaborative, has written to each of the three-tier forums calling for their thoughts on the issue.
A spokesperson for DrinkWise said: “A minimum unit price is supported by people who put your health and physical safety first - police and fire services, doctors and nurses, cancer charities and medical collages.
“Minimum pricing is opposed by some who manage companies whose obligation is to shareholders to maximise profits.
“We believe minimum unit pricing targets cheap strong booze will protect the most vulnerable and young in our society from pocket-money priced drinks.”
Mr Birtwistle added: “We need to find people help to stop earlier. There are some great services in Burnley to help them, but at the end of the day we need to get more people using them.
“The point about minimum pricing is that it would also help the sensible, moderate drinkers in pubs. The pub trade is dying because supermarkets can sell drinks for less than cost price.”