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alcohol health alliance uk

MPs urged to crack down on cheap alcohol to ease pressure on NHS

PC Claire McNaney supports action on cheap alcohol

Joanne Good supports action on cheap alcohol

Stephen Tate supports action on cheap alcohol

Posted 04/09/18

North East campaigners including a bereaved mother, a police officer and a shopkeeper are backing a national campaign calling for the government to reduce the harm drinking has on society through tackling cheap alcohol.

Balance and the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) are today (4 September) calling on MPs to end alcohol tax breaks in the upcoming Budget to ease the pressure on the NHS and other public services.

The coalition of 50 organisations is calling for an increase in alcohol duty – 2% above inflation – and the introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol (MUP). Ssuccessive 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.

With campaigners from around the country who have seen first-hand the harm of alcohol, they are encouraging people to send their local Member of Parliament a personalised postcard to show their support for action on cheap alcohol. All people need to do is click here or visit ahauk.org/cheap-alcohol/.

40-year-old Joanne from Dudley in North Tyneside, said: “I lost my beautiful daughter Megan after a New Year’s Eve house party where she had drunk cheap white cider so I have experienced first-hand the tragedy cheap alcohol can bring about.

“I struggle with what happened on a daily basis and it’s had a huge impact on myself and my family. I wanted to speak out in the hope that other young people will hear about Megan and I might save another family from having to go through what we have been through.

“No matter what we say to our children, they will always want to experiment. Cheap, strong cider will always appeal because it can easily be bought from their pocket money. I fully support any measure that increases the price of cheap alcohol, including increased alcohol taxes and minimum unit price.”

PC Claire McNaney works in the Alcohol Harm Reduction Unit at Durham Constabulary and sees the impact that cheap alcohol has on the county’s communities every day.

She said: “The majority of domestic incidents are alcohol-related, and there are also shocking examples of vulnerable people, often the homeless community or youngsters, coming to harm after drinking cheap alcohol products.

“The problems stemming from these drinks are a massive burden for police and take up a lot of time. Many of the vulnerable people we try to assist are still in need of intervention, a network of support and treatment services, but making cheap alcohol products less affordable would be one step in the right direction and would discourage people from drinking as much.”

Stephen Tate, who owns Addison News in Stockton with wife Julie, said: “We are members of the Federation of Independent Retailers and our members strongly believe that minimum unit pricing is the right thing to. That might not be the view that is often represented by the alcohol industry, but it is definitely the feeling among many shopkeepers. We recognise the serious harms that alcohol can cause and it’s vitally important that something is done to bring about change.”

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “Cheap alcohol places a huge burden on communities in the North East, the NHS and public services and it can’t be sustained. With an NHS under pressure, we just cannot afford any more alcohol duty cuts. Evidence also shows that pub landlords see little if any benefit from duty cuts, and they accelerate the drive even more towards cheap supermarket alcohol.

“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.”