Find us on Facebook

alcohol health alliance uk

Balance and Fresh responds to the Levelling Up strategy

Ailsa Rutter

Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh and Balance

Posted 02/02/22

Health campaigners have called on Ministers to recognise the impact reducing smoking and alcohol consumption could have on “levelling up” as a new strategy is announced to close the gap between the rich and poor and the north and the south.

Fresh and Balance say reducing smoking rates and alcohol harm would have positive impacts on the government missions to “Narrow the gap of healthy life expectancy between the areas where it is lowest and highest and improve "well-being" in every area of the UK".

Smokers on average lose 10 years life expectancy with 113,000 deaths from smoking in the North East since the year 2000 and at least half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest is due to tobacco.

Recent estimates show the cost of smoking to society totals £17.04bn for England and £887 to the North East each year, spread across healthcare, social care and loss of earnings and productivity from ill health. (1). Campaigners are calling for a levy on tobacco companies to pay now for prevention.

Alcohol use severely impact on health and life expectancy, with liver disease rising and now the second leading cause of premature death in people of working age (2). Alcohol is also a driver of crime, with estimates from different parts of the country finding that between a third and a half of all arrests are alcohol-related, rising to over 80% on weekend evenings (3) and disproportionately affecting less affluent communities.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “We welcome efforts to “level up” but the government now needs to recognise the role that reducing smoking and excessive alcohol consumption needs to play in health and life chances, especially in regions such as the North East where we see the worst harms.

“Smoking and alcohol impact on every walk of life and fuel inequalities, from health and wellbeing to mental health and lost earnings. Alcohol is also a major driver of anti-social behaviour, crime, and violence. We have seen drinking rates rising due to Covid and record levels of alcohol specific deaths - this is only going to get worse unless we take action.

“It’s vital that to stand a chance in levelling up that we address the challenges around tobacco and alcohol openly and honestly. We urgently need a new national tobacco plan which has been promised by the government and a comprehensive, national alcohol strategy which tackles cheap strong alcohol, availability and promotion.”

What is needed
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking has recommended bold action to reduce smoking down to 5% including raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21 to further reduce smoking rates among young people, further education campaigns, more investment in quitting and the tobacco industry to pay a levy which would be channelled into prevention and quitting support.

Over three quarters (78%) support activities to limit smoking or think the government could do more while only 6% think the Government is doing too much (3%) or far too much.

The Alcohol Health Alliance is calling for a range of measures as part of a national strategy to tackle an alcohol crisis:
• A minimum price of at least 50p per unit of alcohol across the whole UK
• Health warnings and nutritional information on labels
• Restrictions on alcohol marketing to protect children and vulnerable people
• A fairer and healthier alcohol duty system
• Better access to specialist support for at-risk drinkers