Up to 250,000 people could die because of alcohol over the next 20 years unless ministers take strong action to tackle Britain's chronic drink problems, leading doctors are warning.
The prediction comes in edition of the Lancet medical journal by three senior experts on alcohol, two of whom are advising the coalition on how to reduce drink-related harm.
In a scathing critique of the government's approach to alcohol, the trio accuse ministers of pursuing policies that will make no difference to the soaring rates of drink-related liver disease.
“Since 2005, UK alcohol consumption per head has fallen by almost 11 per cent. Far from being too close to government, all alcohol producers have faced huge increases in tax and regulation in recent years.
“For beer, duty has increased by 26 per cent since 2008. This has been hugely damaging, and the government has plans for large increases in March, which would further hurt the brewing and pub sector on which a million UK jobs depend.
“We already have the some of the highest alcohol tax levels in the world. Raising UK taxes further would be a burden on the vast majority who drink sensibly, and provide a potential bonanza for bootleggers and the booze cruise.
“We need better awareness and measures targeted at the minority who misuse alcohol - and the industry is committed to work with the government to achieve this.”