Write to your MP to ask them to tackle cheap alcohol

Ahead of the budget on 16 March, we’re calling on the government to tackle alcohol-related harm by increasing the duty on cheap, high strength cider and white spirits. These products cause disproportionate levels of harm, and are closely associated with dependent, street and underage drinking.

The impact is particularly pernicious when it comes to children. Large bottles of cheap, sweet cider are often the drink of choice for under-15s receiving help for alcohol addiction. For older children white spirits are becoming more popular, with own brand vodka now the number one drink of choice among adolescent girls accessing treatment, followed by Smirnoff vodka.

These cheap drinks make children hugely vulnerable, and have been linked with a range of poor short and long term outcomes, including issues such as child sexual exploitation.

We can’t afford for cheap alcohol to get even cheaper, but this is what’s happened over the last three budgets, with successive duty cuts and the removal of the alcohol duty escalator. These cuts have helped supermarkets drop their alcohol prices even further.

With our NHS in crisis, we need the alcohol industry to pay a fairer share towards the cost of alcohol harm to the UK economy.

We would encourage anyone concerned about the harm these drinks do to write to their MP raising their concerns ahead of the budget. The information in the AHA’s submission to the Treasury ahead of the budget sets out the Alcohol Health Alliance views on what the government needs to do in its budget, and could form the basis of letters to politicians. A template letter you can use is also below.

To find your MP and their contact details, click here.

Dear [NAME OF MP]

Re: Help us to tackle cheap alcohol

Cheap alcohol is a huge problem, and it’s not just adults with a drinking problem who favour own brand vodka and three litre bottles of high strength cider at pocket money prices.

Large bottles of cheap, sweet cider are often the drink of choice for under-15s receiving help for alcohol addiction. These bottles often contain around twice the recommended low risk weekly allowance for an adult, all for under £3.

For older children white spirits are becoming more popular, with own-brand vodka now the number one drink of choice amongst adolescent girls accessing treatment, followed by Smirnoff vodka.

These cheap drinks make children hugely vulnerable, and have been linked with a range of poor short and long term outcomes, including issues such as Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

We can’t afford for cheap alcohol to get even cheaper, but this is what’s happened over the last 3 budgets, with successive duty cuts and the removal of the alcohol duty escalator. These cuts don’t get passed on to pub drinkers, but have helped supermarkets to drop their alcohol prices even further.

Tackling affordability is one of the best evidenced and most powerful tools for reducing harmful drinking, whatever the age of the drinker. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) recently called for an increase in duty on these products. We support this, as do the Alcohol Health Alliance, a coalition of over 70 groups and charities. For very similar reasons action is also needed on taxation for spirits, and the reintroduction of the alcohol duty escalator.

There is a pressing need for the Government to increase the duty on cheap, high strength cider and white spirits, products which make these children extremely vulnerable and open to the most serious forms of exploitation and harm.

Please highlight these concerns in your work as an MP, and lobby the Government for action in the run up to the budget. More information on this important issue can be found by clicking here.

Kind regards,

[YOUR NAME] [YOUR ADDRESS]