A girl walks past a poster warning of alcohol abuse during a Carnage event, in Lincoln, eastern England April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples

A complete ban on alcohol advertising should be imposed and a minimum drinks price set to help deter excessive drinking in Britain, medics said on Tuesday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said curtailment of the industry's 800 million pound ($1.3 billion) annual promotional budget should also cover sponsorship of sports and arts events.

It called for alcoholic drinks to be taxed higher than the rate of inflation, and for licensing hours to be cut.

Alcohol consumption has increased rapidly during the past 20 years, causing social problems and increased health care costs, showing self-regulation had failed, the BMA said in its report Under the Influence.

It said it was time the government imposed measures to deter heavy drinking, similar those introduced against smoking in enclosed public places.

We have a perverse situation where the alcohol industry is advising our governments about alcohol reduction policies, said Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of BMA science and ethics.

As with tobacco, putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop -- or at least putting him on a par with the farmer -- is a dangerous idea, she said.

The BMA said it supported the principle of a minimum price for alcohol, but did not want to put forward a suggested figure. Instead, it pointed to Scotland which is contemplating a minimum price of 40 pence per unit of alcohol.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown in March rejected a recommendation of 50 pence per unit of alcohol from chief medical officer Liam Donaldson, saying he did not want to punish the majority for the actions of the few.

But the BMA said Britain had developed an excessively pro-alcohol social norm, of which young people's binge-drinking was a predictable manifestation, boosted by cheap prices and targeted sweetened drinks.

Between 1992 and 2006, household expenditure on alcoholic drinks increased by 81 percent, and the BMA said there was a clear relationship between the price and consumption of alcohol.

The medics rejected selective targeting of young people because it was likely to make alcohol more attractive.

David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents drinks manufacturers, said: The BMA is ignoring all the evidence that advertising causes brand switching, not harmful drinking.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said alcohol consumption had fallen 6 percent on 2004.