The launch of controversial tonic wine Buckfast in cans could reduce Scotland's chronic levels of bottle attacks and injuries, a leading medical expert has claimed.

With research showing a higher proportion of violent offenders use bottles than knives, Dr Peter Rice, chairman of the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said on balance the new £2.90 25cl cans were a positive.

J. Chandler, the firm which distributes the highly caffeinated drink, which is also 15% alcohol, has been under pressure for several years to produce the drink in plastic bottles,

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With further research showing the environmental damage caused by broken bottles, much of it from Buckfast, the move could have further beneficial spin-offs for the environment.

J. Chandler said there would be an initial run of 16,000 to coincide with the summer season and if successful the new product would sit alongside the traditional 75cl glass bottle, which sells for over £7.

Dr Rice, a consultant psychiatrist in Tayside and expert in alcohol-related brain injuries, said: "There are upsides and downsides.

"The biggest upside is moving away from the glass bottle towards cans. The police view is there'd be a lot less hassle if some products weren't in glass bottles and there's been academic research pointing to the environmental impact of glass.

"Buckfast have resisted moves towards plastic bottles so I think on balance this is a move in the right direction."

He added: "The cans will cost £2.90 and that's nowhere near the minimum unit price suggested. Buckfast gets the blame when its mixed with other cheap alcohols.

"Our focus continues to be on the cheap white ciders and cheap vodkas."

One health campaigner said many in the alcohol industry, including big retailers, were happy with the continued focus on Buckfast as it shifted attention away from them, but added: "Buckfast say this will be popular during the barbeque season.

"Alcohol firms should be more transparent and open about what their research says about who actually buys their product."

An analysis by Dr Alasdair Forsyth, of the Centre for the Study of Violence at Glasgow Caledonian University, of research into young offenders and drinking found that in a 2007 survey, 43% of those who drank alcohol before committing their offence said they drank Buckfast.

In a separate study, Dr Forsyth's team found that of 587 broken bottles in the housing schemes of a central belt town, 54% were Buckfast

Labour have proposed limiting the caffeine limit in all alcoholic drinks, which would have a major impact on Buckfast.

A spokesman for J. Chandler said: "Buckfast is no different to any other alcohol producer and it's down to the retailer to ensure they're selling their alcohol responsibly.

"The public health minister for Scotland called on businesses to promote responsible consumption of alcohol and make smaller measures of wine available to consumers in January. That's when we decided we should look at bringing Buckfast out in a smaller unit."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Clearly, it is important that people have the ability to choose a smaller measure if they wish. However, time and time again, the research proves that affordability is the key factor in the misuse of alcohol and that the most effective way to tackle this is by setting a minimum unit price.

"This is about targeting the drink that is cheap relative to strength, which causes so much harm within communities, often in the most deprived areas of Scotland."