In today’s Autumn budget, North East health campaigners are calling on greater tax on alcohol and tobacco.
Fresh and Balance want to see companies pay for the damage that they cause, including money from their profits to the NHS.
It comes as pooled estimates show they together cost the region more than 1.6 billion pounds every year.
Ailsa Rutter is the director of Fresh, who want to see an increase in the price of cigarettes:
Balance are calling for a minimum unit price and end alcohol duty cuts which harm pubs and make supermarket booze even cheaper.
Susan Taylor is Balance’s partnerships manager:
Alcohol cost the region £1.01bn in 2015-16 and tobacco £613m in 2017 through NHS costs, GP appointments, hospital admissions, crime and disorder, sickness, absenteeism and lost productivity among staff working for North East employers, and social services support for families affected by tobacco and alcohol issues.
Balance, the North East alcohol office, and the Alcohol Health Alliance are calling for an end to alcohol tax breaks to ease the pressure on the NHS, police and other public services. They are calling for an increase in alcohol duty – 2% above inflation – and to follow Scotland by introducing alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP).
Fresh is supporting a call from Action on Smoking and Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies to increase tobacco tax from 2% to 5% above inflation and to increase hand rolling tobacco by 15% above inflation. This is also calling for a levy on tobacco manufacturers to pay more for the harm caused by smoking and help further cut smoking rates.
Successive 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.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance the North East Alcohol Office, said:
“Cheap alcohol continues to wreak immense damage and places a huge burden on communities in the North East, the NHS and public services. All of us are paying for it and with an NHS under pressure; we just cannot afford any more alcohol duty cuts.”
“Duty cuts on alcohol are often presented as a high profile measure to help pubs, but research shows they actually accelerate the shift towards cheap supermarket alcohol, putting pubs more at risk. A survey of North East pub landlords found cheap supermarket booze, rather than alcohol taxes, is the main reason they blame for pubs closing, and few landlords have seen any benefit from tax cuts in alcohol duty over recent years.”
“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.”
Philip Hammond is expected to announce a 1.5 billion pound boost for the high street in today’s Budget.
The Chancellor’s likely to cut business rate bills by a third for almost half a million small retailers.
He’ll probably keep fuel duty frozen – and it’s reported he could bring forward income tax cuts.
Responding to the announcements from the Chancellor in the Budget today, Colin Shevills, the Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office said:
“The Chancellor’s decision to yet again freeze alcohol duty means that £9bn will have been lost to The Treasury between 2012 and 2023. That is money which could have been invested in the NHS and other emergency services which have to deal with the problems caused by cheap alcohol.
“Communities across the North East suffer some of the greatest harms caused by alcohol and this will make things even worse. What’s more, that harm is greatest amongst our most vulnerable groups.
“The time has come for serious action and we call on the Government to follow the example of our Scottish neighbours and introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol which would save lives, cut crime, reduce hospital admissions and save millions of pounds for our emergency services.”