MINIMUM price limits on alcohol would improve heavy drinkers' chances of kicking the booze, Southampton researchers have found.

A new study of liver patients by the University of Southampton shows that a Minimum Unit Price (MUP) for alcohol is targeted towards the heaviest drinkers with cirrhosis.

Researchers studied the amount and type of alcohol consumed by 404 liver patients and asked how much they paid for the booze.

They found that patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis were drinking on average the equivalent of four bottles of vodka a week and paying around 33p a unit.

If the Government set a MUP at 50p, the impact on heavy drinking liver patients would be at least 200 times higher than low risk moderate drinkers, who pay on average £1.10 per unit of alcohol.

Prof Nick Sheron, from the University of Southampton, said: Setting a Minimum Unit Price for alcohol is an almost perfect alcohol policy because it targets cheap booze bought by very heavy drinkers and leaves moderate drinkers completely unaffected.

“Our research shows that an MUP set at 50p per unit would affect the liver patients killing themselves with cheap alcohol 200 times more than low risk drinkers.

“Alcohol sold to heavy drinkers provides three-quarters of the profits of the UK drinks industry, of which alcohol sold to very heavy drinkers provides one third.

“When the government says it is concerned about the impact of MUP on moderate drinkers, they are simply repeating propaganda which has been put out by the drinks industry to try and preserve the huge profits they are making from people drinking at really dangerous levels.

“The House of Commons Health Committee has stated in the past that they were concerned the policies were much closer to and influenced by the drinks industry and supermarkets than expert health professionals - and this is still the problem.

“Unless policy makers start listening to the evidence liver deaths will rise even further.”

Professor Ian Gilmore, the RCP special advisor on alcohol and chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, added: “Once again another robust study has highlighted the possible benefits a Minimum Unit Price could have on those in society who drink most heavily.”