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alcohol health alliance uk

Missed opportunity to reduce alcohol damage to the North East

Posted 24/03/11

Government missed the perfect opportunity to help reduce alcohol consumption across the region in the 2011 budget, says Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

Last week, the Chancellor confirmed that alcohol tax will rise by just 2% above inflation.

“This will have next to no impact on the price of alcohol sold at pocket money prices, which causes our region the most damage as it is traditionally consumed by our youngest and heaviest drinkers,” said Colin Shevills, Director of Balance.

“Government needs to go further and faster if we are to reduce the damage that alcohol is doing to the North East, where we have the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions and the second highest rate of alcohol related deaths in the country.

“Alcohol needs to be retailed at a price which recognises that it is no ordinary commodity and can be harmful, not just to individuals but also to the communities in which they live. The answer is the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol.”

Leading up to the budget, Balance joined forces with national and regional alcohol health bodies to call on Government to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol. 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.

To provide substance to its argument, Balance, Alcohol Concern, Alcohol Focus Scotland, SHAAP and Our Life, presented a sneak preview of an alcohol price survey conducted in supermarkets across the North East, North West and Scotland.

The report, due to be published in the next few weeks, reveals that alcohol is being sold for pocket money prices across the North East, North West and Scotland. It 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 for just 12p a unit, which will remain untouched by the Government’s chosen price control.

Other headlines from the report reveal: