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alcohol health alliance uk

Balance backs calls for spirit duty rise

Posted 26/06/15

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, is backing calls for the Government to protect young people by increasing duty on spirits in the emergency Budget.

It comes as research, led by Alcohol Concern and regionally partnered by Balance, reveals spirits, particularly vodkas, to be among the most popular drinks of choice for children accessing treatment for alcohol.

Alcohol misuse currently costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year. The cost in the North East, which has the highest rate of alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under-18s, is estimated to be £242 million. Implementing a rise in spirit duty of 4% above inflation would help relieve the financial strain on the NHS and help protect children.

The North East survey findings, which closely mirror national trends, found alcohol brands such as Smirnoff vodka, Fosters beer, Frosty Jack’s cider and generic vodka as the favoured products amongst the 12 to 20-year-olds surveyed in six of the region’s treatment centres.

The most commonly consumed brands in the North East were:
1. Fosters beer
2. Frosty Jack’s cider
3. Generic/ own brand vodka
4. Smirnoff vodka
5. Jack Daniel’s whisky

The research, which has been conducted on a national level for the last three years, also found Budweiser beer to be among the most popular brands with North East boys. Budweiser is heavily involved with sport sponsorship including events such as the FIFA World Cup.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “It comes as no great surprise that cheap, strong own brand vodka and Frosty Jack’s cider are among the five most commonly consumed alcohol brands alongside heavily promoted products such as Smirnoff, Fosters and Jack Daniel’s.

“Alcohol industry advertising continues to reach the most vulnerable members of our society with products sold at pocket money prices and advertising which promotes drinking as a means to have fun. In the UK TV advertisements for alcohol are seen by children more often than adults. They must be restricted by Government if we want to reduce the harm that alcohol is currently causing younger generations.

“The alcohol industry benefited from significant tax cuts and the end of the alcohol duty escalator during the coalition Government, a move which is estimated to cost the public purse more than £1.5bn over five years.

“These kinds of tax cuts put our children at risk. The Chancellor needs to ensure he protects the most vulnerable members of society by not bowing down to the alcohol industry and supporting targeted alcohol policies such as the spirits duty rise.

“Spirits are becoming increasingly popular amongst this age group and a rise in spirit duty will make the strongest and most dangerous products that end up in the hands of our children less attractive to young people.”

There are more than 10,000 children and young people currently in treatment for alcohol as either a primary or secondary substance across the country. Alcohol Concern’s national research included six services based in the North East; DNA in Newcastle, N2L in North Shields, The Gate in Darlington, Matrix in South Tyneside, Platform in Middlesbrough and Lifeline in Stockton.

Melanie Soutar, Manager of Matrix young people’s drug and alcohol service in South Tyneside, said: “It’s important that we understand the alcohol choices of young people when we’re treating children at such a young age. The survey highlights the call for action on things such as alcohol marketing and low price high volume products.”

The full Alcohol Concern report can be downloaded below.

Further reading

26 June 2015

Alcohol Brands Consumed by Young People in Treatment 2015

The same brands are commonly consumed by at risk young people year after year.

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