Price rises on alcoholic drinks lead directly to a fall in consumption, says a study commissioned by the UK government to help it tackle alcohol-related harm.

The influential study, completed by the University of Sheffield, was published yesterday (3 December) to coincide with the government's announcement that it plans to introduce a mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers.

Researchers analysed more than 40 separate policy scenarios, including setting minimum prices per unit of alcohol at different levels and bans on price-based promotions in off licences and supermarkets.

Drinks industry bodies have argued against a link between price and consumption, but the Wine & Spirit Trade Association yesterday publicly accepted the need for a stricter code of practice on sales and promotions.

Under the new government plans, it is thought that offers such as three-for-two drinks promotions in supermarkets and off licences may be outlawed.

just-drinks understands that economic advisers to the government have also been rigorously examining possible ways of setting a minimum price on alcohol. The legality and economic ramifications of such a move remain a grey area, however.

Dr Petra Meier, the lead Sheffield researcher, said yesterday: "The results suggest that policies which increase the price of alcohol can bring significant health and social benefits and lead to considerable financial savings in the NHS, criminal justice system and in the workplace."

She added: "Our results also show that targeting price increases at cheaper types of alcohol would affect harmful and hazardous drinkers far more than moderate drinkers."