The call from Balance includes urging the key decision-makers to tackle the cheapest strongest alcohol and restrict its promotion and availability.
It comes following new modelling research funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research as the Covid-19 pandemic has seen many people consume more alcohol, with 47 per cent of adults drinking at ‘higher risk levels’ in the North East.
Three scenarios were modelled between 2022 and 2035 by the Institute of Alcohol Studies and chronic disease modelling specialists HealthLumen.
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If alcohol consumption does not return to 2019 levels (i.e. drinking patterns during 2020/21 become permanent), there will be an estimated 147,892 additional cases of disease and 9,914 additional premature deaths in England, plus £1.2billion additional NHS costs.
Even if alcohol consumption returns to 2019 levels by the end of 2024, there will be an estimated 24,706 additional cases of disease and 3,725 additional premature deaths across the country, plus £568 million additional NHS costs.
Sue Taylor, head of alcohol policy for Balance, said: “The findings of this research paint a hugely worrying picture about drinking patterns during the pandemic and highlight an urgent need for action, especially as we know that the North East suffers disproportionately when it comes to alcohol consumption.
“Alcohol is too cheap, too available and too heavily promoted. We need the Government to take evidence-based action now before millions more suffer.”