16 March 2016: Responding to the announcements from the Chancellor in the Budget today, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:
“Rather than freezing beer, cider and spirits duties today, the Chancellor should have increased duty on these products, in recognition of the negative impacts of alcohol on the country and society.
HMRC have estimated that the duty freezes today will cost the Exchequer £85 million every year – and that’s before further costs to the economy of hospital admissions, crime and other costs are considered.
Our National Health Service cannot cope with current levels of alcohol-related harm in the country. There are approximately 1 million hospital admissions a year in England alone due to alcohol-related illness. 1 in 6 A&E attendances in the UK are alcohol-related, and this figure rises to 3 in 4 attendances during the late evening and early hours of weekends.
The decision not to increase duty on cider is particularly disappointing. High strength ciders such as Frosty Jacks, Omega and White Ace, are consumed by underage drinkers who are able to afford the low prices they are sold at – 3 litre bottles of white cider (containing 22.5 units) can be bought for as little as £3.50. This is why we, along with doctors, health professionals and the most recently the Institute for Fiscal Studies have made the case for increasing duty on cider.”
Katherine Brown, Director of the Institute for Alcohol Studies, said:
“It’s astonishing to see that for the fourth year in a row the Chancellor has decided to ignore the damage caused by cheap alcohol. How can this Budget help the next generation be fit for the future when strong white cider continues to be sold for pocket money prices?
“It’s difficult to see the justification for this tax freeze when the government itself estimates alcohol harm costs the UK £21 billion a year, whilst alcohol taxes raise £9 billion. With our NHS and emergency services under enormous pressure from alcohol, this is a real missed opportunity to save lives, reduce crime and help the public purse.”