Alcohol is knocking more than a year off the lives of Birmingham men, according to shock new figures.
Public Health England has revealed that worrying levels of boozing takes almost 14 months off the life span of men in the city and six months for women.
The new figures, released this week, also revealed high numbers of men being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related conditions – almost 2,000 per 100,000 population, much higher than the national average.
Drink-related crime is also about a fifth higher in Birmingham than the rest of the country.
The figures also revealed that children as young as 11 had been referred to specialist drug and alcohol services in the city.
Children aged between 12 and 14 were also referred in Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Solihull and Warwickshire.
Birmingham’s director of public health, Dr Adrian Phillips, has been campaigning for the government to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol.
In the wake of the latest figures, he revealed it was possible to buy enough alcohol to “kill yourself” for just £10.
He said: “Cheap alcohol is killing people and destroying lives. Handwringing is not enough and, until we get serious about introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol, we’re just playing around here.
“Alcohol Concern knows that, the public health world knows that. It’s high time the penny dropped in Whitehall.
“We know access to cheap, super-strength booze is a driver of so much misery – not just the high number of admissions to A&E departments.
“Head of NHS critical care, Dr Bob Winter, says it has now become socially acceptable for people to drink themselves into an anaesthetised state on Friday and Saturday nights, adding that bargain booze at supermarkets and off-licences is so cheap it is now possible to buy enough alcohol to ‘die from’ with a £10 note. How on Earth can that be the case?”
The Office for National Statistics revealed the figures for men in the city were 22.6 deaths per 100,000, compared to 15.3 across England and Wales between 2004 and 2012.
The figures for women in the city were in line with the national average at 8.8 per 100,000.
Dr Phillips said that in Birmingham ten per cent of all hospital admissions were down to alcohol.
In domestic violence cases in the region, half were thought to have been caused by drinking, and deaths from liver disease have risen by 40 per cent in the last decade.
Alcohol is the fifth biggest killer in the UK.
Dr Phillips said: “It is the only one of the major killers that does not have a national strategy.
“And the statistics will continue to shock until the Government accepts the urgent need for minimum pricing.
“It amazes me that we even need a debate on this. Low cost, high strength booze kills people, destroys families and harms communities.”
The rise of drinking in the young means people are potentially causing long-term damage to their livers earlier in life.
Dr Phillips added: “Studies showed those heavy drinkers at high risk of accidents and deteriorating health would be most affected by a 45p minimum price.
“They buy large quantities of low-cost alcohol, while moderate drinkers will buy less of the cheap booze and more with a higher price tag.
“The effect would be greatest among the five per cent of the population classified as harmful drinkers – men who put back more than 50 units a week and women who drink more than 35 units. This can be daily drinking or binge drinking. So what are we waiting for – more deaths?”
Steve McCabe MP (Lab, Selly Oak), Shadow Minister for Children and Families, said he was shocked by the age of some of the youngest problem drinkers.
He said: “I have thought for a long time there needs to be a proper personal, social, health and economic education strategy to deal with many of the challenges of growing up and this should not be confined to schools but must be woven into the fabric of activity in schools.”