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Call to cut the harm of alcohol and tobacco in Autumn Budget

Government urged to increase alcohol duty ahead of budget

Government urged to increase alcohol duty ahead of budget

Posted 26/10/18

North East health campaigners are calling on the Government to tackle the crippling toll of alcohol and tobacco and plug much-needed public finances in next week’s Autumn Budget.

It comes as pooled estimates show tobacco and alcohol together cost the North East more than £1.6bn every year. Alcohol cost the region £1.01bn in 2015-16 and tobacco £613m in 2017 through NHS costs, GP appointments, hospital admissions, crime and disorder, sickness, absenteeism and lost productivity among staff working for North East employers, and social services support for families affected by tobacco and alcohol issues. *

Balance, the North East alcohol office, and the Alcohol Health Alliance are calling for an end to alcohol tax breaks to ease the pressure on the NHS, police and other public services. They are calling for an increase in alcohol duty – 2% above inflation – and to follow Scotland by introducing alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP).

Fresh is supporting a call from Action on Smoking and Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies to increase tobacco tax from 2% to 5% above inflation and to increase hand rolling tobacco by 15% above inflation. This is also calling for a levy on tobacco manufacturers to pay more for the harm caused by smoking and help further cut smoking rates.

Successive alcohol duty cuts from 2013 -14 to 2018-19 have already cost the Treasury around £4bn, with government estimates of the cost rising to £8.3bn by 2022-23 . This much-needed money could fund 34 million emergency ambulance call outs, 530,000 social care packages for older people or 60 million hospital outpatient appointments .

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance the North East Alcohol Office, said: “Cheap alcohol continues to wreak immense damage and places a huge burden on communities in the North East, the NHS and public services. All of us are paying for it and with an NHS under pressure; we just cannot afford any more alcohol duty cuts.

“Duty cuts on alcohol are often presented as a high profile measure to help pubs, but research shows they actually accelerate the shift towards cheap supermarket alcohol, putting pubs more at risk. A survey of North East pub landlords found cheap supermarket booze, rather than alcohol taxes, is the main reason they blame for pubs closing, and few landlords have seen any benefit from tax cuts in alcohol duty over recent years.

“The government needs to bring alcohol harms under control and introduce a range of targeted, evidence based measures, such as increasing the tax on alcohol and minimum unit pricing. These measures would save lives, cut crime, reduce hospital admissions and lessen the financial pressures that alcohol places on public services.”

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: “Tobacco – whether it is legal or illegal - will kill one in two long term smokers, killing 78,000 people a year in England and 15 people a day here in the North East. Regions like the North East have had the heaviest smoking rates and we pay the highest price.

“Raising tobacco prices is the most effective way to reduce smoking prevalence and make it less affordable for kids. We are also calling for taxation on hand rolling tobacco to be brought into line with cigarettes which will also send out a clear message that roll ups are just as poisonous and as harmful to health.”

She added: “The tobacco industry generates more than £1bn each year profiting from a product which kills half of smokers and inflicts a massive financial burden on the country. We believe they should pay for the damage they cause through a levy on manufacturers.”

*The cost to the North East from of alcohol and tobacco

• Alcohol is responsible for 1.1 million hospitalisations and 24,000 deaths every year in England , and drinking is the biggest risk factor for premature death among 15-49 year olds .
• In 2015/16 alcohol was estimated to have cost the North East around £1.01bn , including:
o £209 million in NHS and healthcare for services such as hospital admissions, A&E attendances, ambulance callouts and treatment for alcohol dependency.
o £331 million in crime and disorder, including 55,300 cases of criminal damage, 154,900 cases of theft and 20,000 cases of violence against the person.
o £353 million lost to local businesses and employers through absenteeism, lost productivity and alcohol related deaths
o £121 million in costs to children and adults’ social services and substance misuse services.

Smoking in the North East results in 5,584 early deaths every year – 15 deaths a day.
It also costs the North East an estimated £613.8 million a year including:
• A bill of £127.5 million to the NHS from over 1.2 million GP consultations, over 256,000 hospital admissions and outpatient visits, and 693,133 GP prescriptions every year
• North East local authorities paying out an additional £46.3m a year to fund social care, as well as individuals and families paying out £38.4m a year to fund their own social care
• A cost of £386.4m to the regional economy and businesses, including 6211 years of lost economic activity from early deaths costing businesses around £148.4m, and £73.2 million due to absenteeism from smoking-related illnesses, losing around 794,000 days of lost productivity