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alcohol health alliance uk

Government urged to deliver meaningful alcohol budget

Posted 21/03/11

A sneak preview of a report set to be published in the next few weeks reveals that alcohol is being sold for pocket money prices across the North East.

The report proves that banning the sale of alcohol below the price of duty plus VAT, the Government’s preferred method of dealing with alcohol sold at dangerously low prices, will do almost nothing to increase the price of the worst offenders.

The Duty plus VAT measure will only increase the price of two in more than 600 alcohol products surveyed in the North East, North West and Scotland. Those products are both bottles of vodka, retailing at £10.51 and £11.29 respectively, providing a unit of alcohol for 28p. Although certainly a cheap unit price, it is still more than twice the price of the cheapest alcohol, available in some supermarkets in the North East for just 12p a unit, which will remain untouched by the Government’s chosen price control.

National charity Alcohol Concern, which along with six other influential health organisations announced it was unable to back the Government’s Responsibility Deal on alcohol, has joined forces with Balance, the North East Alcohol Office; Alcohol Focus Scotland; SHAAP and Our Life. It is the first time such a coalition has been formed to collectively reveal the dangerously low prices at which alcohol is being sold in those areas that can least afford it.

They are using the findings today (Tuesday, March 22) to support their call on Government to make Wednesday’s budget meaningful by introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol, which will help reduce consumption and the damage caused by alcohol misuse by targeting the cheapest alcohol available.

The organisations, which aim to help people reduce alcohol consumption in the North East, North West and Scotland, have been checking the price of alcohol at Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, as well as discount supermarkets in their regions.

The prices are being gathered into a report which will show that supermarkets are selling alcohol at prices which encourage people to drink more. Research shows that increased consumption increases the problems that we face in terms of deaths, hospital admissions, violent crime, domestic abuse and family breakdown.

The report findings reveal:

Alcohol Concern, Balance, Alcohol Focus Scotland, Shaap and Our Life have taken the decision to release these headlines early to support their call on Government, ahead of Wednesday’s (March 23) budget, to introduce a meaningful increase in the price of alcohol to help reduce the harm caused by its misuse.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, explained: “Research shows that low alcohol price is linked to consumption. In the North East, a third of people say they would buy less alcohol if prices were raised. Increased consumption is linked to a rise in alcohol related deaths and hospital admissions, violent assaults and domestic abuse. Our region already has the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions and the second highest rate of alcohol related deaths in the country. Enough is enough.

“Importantly it’s not just the professionals that realize there’s a problem. There’s an appetite for meaningful change across all walks of life. We know that almost half of North Easterners support the introduction of a minimum price and would pay a little extra for alcohol if it reduced rowdy behaviour in public, crime and violence and the burden on the NHS.”

Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “The figures we’ve chosen to issue today demonstrate that alcohol remains available for pocket money prices and will continue to do so unless the Government introduces a meaningful price control instead of relying upon banning the sale of alcohol below duty plus VAT.

“Alcohol needs to be retailed at a price which recognises that it is no ordinary commodity and can be harmful. Wednesday’s budget provides the perfect opportunity to significantly increase the price of super-cheap alcohol so that we can reduce consumption across society, particularly amongst the heaviest and youngest drinkers.”

Dr Alison Giles, chief executive of Our Life, added: “We know that people across the North West are concerned about tackling the very cheapest alcohol on the shelves to reduce harmful drinking, changing people's attitudes towards alcohol, and rebalancing the unequal marketplace between pubs and the off-trade. It is still far too easy to get very drunk quickly and cheaply, but bargain prices in the supermarkets can mean huge bills for the taxpayer as the NHS and the police have to sort out the mess. A minimum price per unit for alcohol would reduce consumption, save lives and save money. So what are we waiting for?”