‘Cutting the price of booze will harm our health,’ says campaign group

NO CUTS: Balance director Colin Shevills is urging the Government not to cut the cost of alcohol, despite industry pressure.
NO CUTS: Balance director Colin Shevills is urging the Government not to cut the cost of alcohol, despite industry pressure.

A NORTH East health campaign group is urging the Government to ignore calls to cut the cost of booze.

The alcohol industry has called for a cut in the tax on drinks, following last year’s decision to abolish the duty escalator which saw the tax rate on all alcoholic drinks rise at two per cent above inflation.

Making alcohol more affordable is not the answer.

Balance director Colin Shevills

Balance, North East Alcohol Office, says the move will cost £1.5 billion over the next five years, enough to pay for more than 9,500 A&E nurses.

And it is urging the ministers to resist pressure for any further cut in the cost of alcohol.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show 277 men died through drink-related conditions in the region in 2013 – up from 255 the previous year and 25 per cent higher than the national average.

The number of female deaths related to drink rose from 150 to 153 in the same period, 33 per cent above the national figure.

Balance director Colin Shevills said: “Enough alcohol is sold in the North East for every drinker to be consuming at or above the recommended male weekly limit, putting them at risk of a myriad of health conditions, including seven types of cancer.

“Cutting alcohol prices further will only lead to increased sales of alcohol, more harm for the people of the North East and extra pressure on our health services. Meanwhile, alcohol companies will be bringing in even bigger profits.

“Alcohol has a huge impact on our frontline services here in the North East. Politicians can help to lessen that strain and the toll on public health by supporting the measures that the AHA is proposing.

“The Government has given in to the industry before on the alcohol duty escalator and we’re calling on all political parties to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“A recent survey found 77 per cent of the UK public want duty to either stay the same or to be increased, so it’s time we listened to the public and not the industry.

“We need to see policies that address pricing taken seriously. Making alcohol more affordable is not the answer.

“On the contrary, we need the introduction of a minimum unit price at a level which will price cheap, strong alcohol out of the hands of children and heavy drinkers while not affecting those people who drink at moderate levels.”

The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) is asking political parties to pledge their support for a range of recommendations so that alcohol duty makes a fairer contribution to reducing alcohol’s burden on society.

The call comes as an open letter to Government – signed by Balance and other AHA members – is published in The Times newspaper.

To lend support to the campaign against duty cuts on alcohol, North Easterners can contact local MPs via the website www.writetothem.comjj