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alcohol health alliance uk

Balance responds to Autumn Budget announcements

Sue Taylor

Sue Taylor

Posted 27/10/21

Responding to the announcements from the Chancellor in the Budget today, Sue Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy with Fresh and Balance, said: “On alcohol, while we welcome the commitment to increase taxes on the cheapest, strongest products – something that Balance has consistently called for – the Chancellor’s statements around alcohol simply do not go far enough. 2020 saw a record year for alcohol specific deaths. Liver disease has soared 400% since 1970 as alcohol has got cheaper – and alcohol is now the leading risk factor for ill-health, early mortality and disability among people aged 15 to 49 in England.

“Duty freezes and cuts on alcohol since 2012 have cost the public purse around £1.3 billion every year – a sum which could have paid for 41,000 nurses - and we are astonished that the Government has announced a new £3bn give away to the alcohol industry at a time when the country’s finances are reeling. The profits of big alcohol continue to be placed above the needs of public health, with the industry benefiting year after year from government handouts while alcohol harms continue to escalate. Action around pricing needs to be part of a much a broader, evidence based national approach to tackling alcohol harms.”

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Today has sadly been a mixed bag for public health and unfortunately calls into question the government’s commitment to tackling some of the most enduring – but also entirely preventable – health inequalities.

“We welcome the announcement to increase duty rates on tobacco products although we need to see more from the government if we are to have a significant impact on smoking rates. Smoking kills 5,500 people in our region every year and leaves many more families devastated by the burdens of coping with avoidable smoking-related diseases such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Raising taxes will encourage more smokers to quit, particularly those from more deprived communities where smoking rates are highest, and really importantly will turn off young people from starting to smoke in the first place.

“We would have liked to have seen stronger action around pricing for hand-rolling tobacco which is often a cheaper – though just as deadly – option, and a ‘polluter pays’ levy on the tobacco industry for the damage it causes to our communities. We are also deeply concerned that there has been no increase in the public health grants for local authorities, particularly at a time of public health crisis. The government needs to take tougher action now – which the public will support – if it is to have any chance of achieving its ambition of a Smokefree England by 2030.”