16/05/2012 11:58 BST | Updated 16/05/2012 12:00 BST

Minimum Alcohol Pricing: Booze Accounts For One In Eight UK Adult Deaths, Conference Hears

One in eight deaths of UK adults under the age of 64 is caused by alcohol, an international conference on tackling problem drinking has heard.

A major conference of addiction specialists from across the world is meeting at Newcastle University and organisers have called for England to follow Scotland and set a minimum price per unit.

They have also demanded a ban on advertising alcohol.

The social cost of alcohol abuse has been estimated to be £240 a year for each European, with the annual bill for the NHS alone being £2.7bn.

Professor Eileen Kaner cited new research which showed one in eight UK deaths of people aged 15 to 64 was caused by alcohol.

In Europe, alcohol consumption is more than twice the global average and it represents the biggest addiction in the UK, greater than any illegal drug or gambling.

Professor Kaner, who is director of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, said: "Alcohol costs the UK so much in so many ways, both in financial and social impacts.

"Governments need to have a clear and unbiased view of the most up-to-date research on alcohol problems and be bolder about tackling some of the root causes such as overly cheap alcohol and irresponsible marketing that encourages heavy drinking.

"This conference will hopefully help inform the debate and highlight key measures governments should be taking to improve public health and safety around drinking behaviour."

She believed the most cost-effective way of reducing the harm caused by alcohol would be to reduce demand by banning advertising and implementing a minimum price per unit.

The Scottish Government announced on Monday it would implement a 50p per unit minimum charge.