4% of the population drink a third of all the alcohol consumed in England

4% of the population drink 30% of the alcohol consumed in England

Just 4% of the population is drinking almost a third of all the alcohol consumed in England.

The shocking statistic was revealed by Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco at Public Health England, during a health select committee discussing the possibility of introducing alcohol minimum unit pricing.

She said: ‘About 4% of the population are drinking just under a third of the alcohol consumed in the country.

‘It’s about two million people. It’s interesting. I thought ‘wow’ when this emerged from our evidence review.’

Committee chair Sarah Wollaston called the admission a ‘staggering figure’.

‘It is a staggering figure. It’s in our evidence.’ Mrs O’Connor continued.

‘We’re talking about this small group of people whose daily heavy drinking are these very cheap, strong, mostly ciders, and it is doing them so much harm.’

Minimum unit pricing would target cheap, high-alcohol products (Rex features)

The number was uncovered by the most recent Health Survey for England, which looks at the years 2012-14.

She also told the committee that there are currently 114 alcohol-related admissions to the NHS every hour on average.

The government is considering a policy of minimum unit pricing (MUP) to tackle the issue of binge drinking and alcoholism, and the subsequent burden on health services.

The move would not affect prices in pubs, supporters say, but would push up the costs of very cheap, high-alcohol-content products.

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For example, the introduction of a 50p MUP would see the cost of a large bottle of strong cider containing 22 units to shoot up from around £3.60 to around £11.

Scotland is introducing  minimum pricing for alcohol on 1 May, targeting cheap, high-strength booze sold in supermarkets and off-licenses.

The policy is supported by the Alcohol Health Alliance.

Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said that cost is ‘the biggest single driver of how much anyone drinks’ and that an MUP would be ‘targeted at those who are most vulnerable’.

But Conservative MP Tim Loughton criticised the evidence used to argue for the introduction of a minimum unit price. The 2014 study estimated that a 45p minimum price per unit would cut alcohol-related deaths by 860 a year and would reduce hospital admissions by nearly 30,000 a year.

However, the paper includes non-drinkers under the category of ‘moderate’ drinkers, meaning its finding are ‘disingenuous’, Mr Loughton said.

The latest statistics suggest that 14% of men and 21% of women abstain from drinking, according to Drink Aware.