Health bosses in the borough are looking at the impact schemes to regulate booze costs in places like Scotland and Canada have had.
And it is hoped that if similar measures were introduced in England it could save lives and slash care costs by pushing drinkers away from the strongest options.
“It’s early days in Scotland but so far they haven’t seen any increase in crime related to shoplifting or people making their own,” said Stephen Carter, a senior public health advanced practitioner with South Tyneside Council.
“In Canada they actually saw a reduction in crime, it’s something we’re aware of and looking at closely, but so far the evidence from other places doesn’t suggest a direct link between not being able to afford alcohol and turning to crime instead.
“It doesn’t indicate a change in purchasing behaviour, but rather than choosing cheap, strong products they choose to a product which doesn’t contain as much alcohol as they would have chosen previously.”
Carter was speaking at a meeting of South Tyneside Council’s People Select Committee.
According to a report for the panel a suggested minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol could be enough to save the NHS more than £540,000 a year just in South Tyneside.
This could also avoid 144 deaths over 20 years and almost 300 alcohol-associated crimes per year.
A three-litre bottle of 7.5 per cent cider would rise to at least £11.25 – roughly triple what a shopper would expect to pay now.
But the move would not be expected to hit pubs, bars or restaurants, most of whom already sell alcohol at above the suggested 50p per unit minimum level.
Members of the panel were broadly supportive of the policy, but also tried to highlight benefits beyond health.
“We have to look at the wider agenda,” said Coun Pat Hay.
“It’s not just about health and wellbeing, it’s also about [the impact on] anti-social behaviour and sexual exploitation – we have to look at these things too.”