Duty changes are a ‘step backwards’ in reducing problem drinking, warns Swanswell

19 March 2014

Changes to alcohol duty announced in today’s budget are a step backwards in reducing problem alcohol use, according to Swanswell.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to Chancellor George Osborne’s fifth statement to the House of Commons.

As part of his annual budget, Mr Osborne cut a further 1p from a pint of beer and froze duty on Scotch Whisky and ‘ordinary’ cider. The Alcohol Duty Escalator – which automatically increases tax on alcohol by 2% above inflation – has also been scrapped (The Grocer).

Swanswell’s concerned that in real terms, it will make some alcoholic drinks even cheaper and is a step further away from introducing effective measures such as minimum unit pricing.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘While a reduction or freeze in alcohol duty will be good news for producers and retailers, the reality is that these changes are likely to add to the £21 billion annual bill for dealing with alcohol misuse.

During these tough economic times, is it right that hard working families – even those who use alcohol moderately or not at all – should further subsidise the cost of dealing with the health and social harms relating to problem drinking?

It’s another blow to hopes of introducing minimum unit pricing – shelved by the government last year in favour of a ban on below cost price sales – and flies in the face of evidence that suggests price increases will reduce alcohol-related deaths.

With almost 13 million people regularly drinking over recommended limits and over 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions every year, it’s not simply going to go away unless we see a concerted effort to tackle problem alcohol use.’

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