Ahead of the Spring Budget, 46 leading health experts including members of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), academics and parliamentarians are urging the Chancellor of the Exchequer to increase alcohol duty when the current freeze ends later this year. If actioned, it will save lives, reduce pressure on the NHS and generate much needed public funds.
Our written appeal follows nearly a decade of successive cuts and freezes to alcohol duty which has seen alcohol become 14% more affordable since 2010. With current rates of inflation, the price of juice has risen by 16.7%, compared to just 5.4% for beer and 2% for wine. Real-terms cuts to duty have undoubtedly contributed to the current record-high levels of alcohol deaths across the UK. It is putting the NHS under even more pressure and has cost the Government £8.6 billion to date – money that could otherwise be spent on stretched frontline services.
Reducing the affordability of alcohol is the most cost-effective way of reducing alcohol harm; a recommendation also made by the World Health Organization. The letter highlights how a duty alcohol escalator reintroduced between 2020 and 2032 had the potential to save over 5000 lives, prevent 160,000 hospitalisations and recoup £800 million for healthcare services.
Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:
“The Alcohol Health Alliance along with other health experts are calling on the Chancellor to act now to save lives. As former Health Secretary I’m sure he will appreciate the damage alcohol harm does to communities, frontline services and the economy. Since 2019 we have seen a 27% rise in deaths from alcohol and over 1 million hospital admissions a year. These record-breaking rates of harm cannot be ignored any longer.
“Increasing alcohol duty in the upcoming Spring Budget would help to alleviate pressure on the NHS and generate much needed income. Moreover, if the Chancellor builds automatic uprating into the duty system, he will ensure that his duty reform plans remain effective well into the future, protecting the lives of people today and for generations to come.”
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Chair of the Alcohol Harm Commission, added:
“Deaths from alcohol are at an all-time high, yet the price of alcohol remains so low. It is time that the Government puts the health of our nation before the profits of the alcohol industry.
“The Chancellor’s plans to reform the alcohol duty system is a welcome step in the right direction to reduce the harm caused by cheap, high-strength alcohol. However, we are asking him to go one step further and increase alcohol duty enough to reverse the real terms cuts we have seen since 2012. The Spring Budget presents a clear opportunity to address the growing trend of alcohol deaths and disease, we cannot afford to miss it.”
If you want to take action, you can ask your MP to write to the Chancellor here.