The Alcohol Health Alliance and Thames Reach, the homelessness organisation, are today calling for duty increases on high-strength cider, which is a leading cause of death and ill-health among the homeless.
Experts will present evidence on this issue at an event taking place in the House of Commons today, sponsored by David Burrowes MP, aimed at highlighting the impact of alcohol on the homeless and vulnerable.
High-strength ciders, including products like Frosty Jack’s and White Ace, are nearly all drunk by homeless and dependent drinkers, and studies show these ciders are a favourite among children receiving treatment for alcohol dependence. Studies have found that 75-85% of high-strength cider drinkers choose it because of its low price. At typically 7.5% ABV, three-litre bottles of these ciders, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, can be bought for as little as £3.49. This equates to just 16p per unit.
The calls will put further pressure on the government to act on cheap, high-strength ciders in the budget in March.
In December, 43 organisations and experts from the health, homelessness, children’s and religious sectors wrote to the Chancellor urging him to increase the duty on cider, and earlier this month polling was released which showed that 66% of the public back a cider tax. In addition, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has previously called for reform to address “the very low levels of duty charged on strong cider”.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:
“A can of 500ml cider at 7.5% is taxed less than a third of the amount taxed on a can of beer the same size and strength. There can be no justification for the low rates of tax on high-strength cider.
“Our calls today are not about the drinks consumed by moderate drinkers. Dependent and vulnerable drinkers account for nearly all sales of high-strength ciders, meaning increased duty would be targeted at them. Indeed, we know that 80% of total cider sales would be left unaffected by duty increases on these high-strength ciders.
“The budget in March represents an ideal opportunity for the government to protect the homeless and vulnerable through increased cider duty.”
Jeremy Swain, Chief Executive of Thames Reach, said:
“98% of the homeless people we work with who have alcohol problems primarily drink bottles and cans of these high-strength ciders and super-strength beers, which are far stronger than regular and premium drinks. A survey of deaths among hostel residents over the past year showed that 10 out of 16 were directly attributable to high and super-strength drinks. This is not a one-off figure. An earlier survey showed 11 out of 14 deaths (78%) were caused by high and super-strength drinks.
“By increasing the tax on these high-strength and dangerous products, the harm done to the vulnerable people we work with will diminish, and the opportunity to reduce, and ultimately end, dependence on alcohol will increase.”
David Burrowes MP is sponsoring the event in Parliament and has long-campaigned locally and nationally about the harms of alcohol. Mr Burrowes said:
“The government has rightly put social justice at the heart of everything they do, and this commitment should extend to preventing the damage done by cheap, high strength drinks, which blight the lives and health of those who need our support – the homeless and vulnerable.
“An increase in the duty on high strength cider at the upcoming budget would represent a step in the right direction to tackling the burden of cheap alcohol on some of our most vulnerable communities.”
About the Alcohol Health Alliance UK
The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) is a group of 50 organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of GPs, British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the Institute of Alcohol Studies.
The AHA works together to:
- Highlight the rising levels of alcohol-related health harm
- Propose evidence-based solutions to reduce this harm
- Influence decision makers to take positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse
For further information, please contact Matt Chorley, the AHA’s Policy and Communications Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Thames Reach
Thames Reach is one of the UK’s leading homelessness charities. Its vision is to end street homelessness and its mission is to provide decent homes, encourage supportive relationships and help people lead fulfilling lives.
Thames Reach runs a range of services in London including street outreach services helping people sleeping rough escape homelessness, a variety of hostels and supported housing projects, and schemes which prevent homelessness and help people develop new skills, re-engage with family and friends, and get back into work.
Thames Reach has been campaigning for over a decade to raise taxation on the dangerous high-strength ciders and super-strength beers – all the major studies on alcohol indicate the price is one of the key factors in influencing what people drink – and have also called on the drinks industry to behave more responsibly.
Successes include the consumption of 9% super-strength beer falling by a quarter in the UK, after we successfully lobbied the Government to create a higher band of duty in 2011, while the drinks manufacturer Heineken removed all of its high-strength cider from sale in the UK after visiting one of our hostels.