Health experts call for crackdown on cheap booze

Cheap alcohol is sparking health concerns
Cheap alcohol is sparking health concerns

North East health experts are calling on the Government to increase the tax on alcohol in the Spring Budget.

The call follows a survey which found that three-litre bottles of high-strength white cider - which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka - are available for as little as £3.99 in off licences in the region - equating to a price of just 18p per unit.

Colin Shevills of Balance.

Colin Shevills of Balance.

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, and medical experts are calling on the Chancellor to increase duty on the cheap, high-strength white cider = often purchased by children and dependent drinkers.

Although the number of teenage drinkers is falling, the North East still has the highest rates of drinking amongst 11 to 15 year olds, with almost 3,000 becoming regular drinkers every year.

High strength white cider, such as Frosty Jack’s and White Ace, currently have a lower duty per unit than any other alcohol product.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “It’s not right that our current tax system means that this industrial strength white cider can be sold so cheaply, fuelling some of the worst problems we have with alcohol.

“On a daily basis, alcohol treatment services across the North East are seeing children and adults suffering from the consequences of this cheap, strong alcohol, available at pocket money prices.”

Dr David Hambleton, chief executive for NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The widespread availability of low-cost super strength alcohol is not just impacting on our region’s health, it is putting severe pressure on the NHS at a time when the service is stretched.

“One in five of all hospital admissions are alcohol related while, at peak times, between 70% and 80% of people turning up at our emergency departments have been drinking alcohol.”