British retailer backs minimum booze prices

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The head of Britain's biggest retailer voiced support Friday for plans to introduce minimum prices for alcohol to help tackle the country's chronic binge drinking problem.

Tesco boss Terry Leahy hailed plans by Prime Minister David Cameron's new government to clamp down on under-age and other problem drinking.

"We welcome the new government's commitment to act on below-cost selling of alcohol and today I pledge that we will support Government-led action to make this happen across the UK," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

"We will also support any future discussions on a minimum price for alcohol."

British authorities have long struggled to contain a binge-drinking culture which makes some town centres no-go zones on Friday and Saturday nights, and to introduce so-called "continental style" moderate drinking habits.

In its joint government programme published Thursday, Cameron's new coalition government -- comprising his Conservative party with the Liberal Democrats -- vowed notably to ban the sale of alcohol at below cost price.

The programme also pledged to "review alcohol taxation and pricing to ensure it tackles binge drinking without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers, pubs and important local industries."

Leahy said raising prices alone could not change Britain's drinking culture, but said lessons could be learnt from labelling and pricing of other foodstuffs.

"We know from our experience in selling food that providing clear information to customers can help drive behaviour change," he wrote.

"Putting simple information on the front of the pack about salt and fat content has led to a big increase in the sale of healthier alternatives.

"So we will now do the same for alcohol on all our own-label products, bringing the information on units of alcohol from the back label to the front," he added.

© 2010 AFP

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