Experts call for action on HIGH STRENGTH CIDER to protect the homeless and the vulnerable.

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.

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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 drinkingthe 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.”

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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 matt.chorley@rcplondon.ac.uk.

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.

See thamesreach.org.uk For further details, contact Thames Reach communications manager, Mike Nicholas, on mike.nicholas@thamesreach.org.uk.

 

 

UKCTAS welcome today’s ruling to introduce a minimum unit price in Scotland!

Plans to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland have been backed by the Scottish courts.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled against a challenge by the Scotch whisky industry, who claimed the plans were a breach of European Law. The ruling now paves the way for the Scottish government to implement its policy, passed by MSPs in 2012.

Under the plans, a price of 50p per unit of alcohol would be set, taking a bottle of spirits to at least £14. The Scottish government, health professionals, police, alcohol charities and some members of the drinks industry believe minimum pricing would help address Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink”.

Sir Ian Gilmore responding to the ruling made today in the Scottish courts in relation to minimum unit pricing in Scotland:

“We welcome this court ruling, and hope to see minimum unit pricing speedily implemented in Scotland. Now is the time to act, even if the global alcohol producers, prioritising commercial interests over Scotland’s health, try to delay further by another appeal.

Now is also the time for England and Wales to follow suit and introduce MUP. The UK government committed to introducing MUP in 2012, and the public support the measure. Government-commissioned research estimates that in the first year following the implementation of MUP in England, there would be nearly 140 fewer crimes per day.

MUP leaves pub prices untouched, and targets the cheap alcohol which is preferentially consumed by children and dependent drinkers. Recent AHA research has found that alcohol is being sold for as little as 16p per unit, with 3 litre bottles of white cider, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, available for just £3.49.

MUP would also be of greatest benefit to those on low income, with 8 out of 10 lives saved coming from the lowest income groups, and greater harm reductions felt by these groups. The government has spoken of its commitment to even out life chances, and MUP would go a long way in furthering this agenda.”

Dr John Holmes from the University of Sheffield said:

“The policy would mainly affect harmful drinkers, and it is the low income harmful drinkers—who purchase more alcohol below the minimum unit price threshold than any other group—who would be most affected. Policy makers need to balance larger reductions in consumption by harmful drinkers on a low income against the large health gains that could be experienced in this group from reductions in alcohol-related illness and death.”

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Modelling by the University of Sheffield estimates that a 50p MUP in Scotland would have the following effects after one year:

· 60 fewer deaths

· 1,300 fewer hospital admissions

· 3,500 fewer crimes

According to the modelling, the health gains will continue to increase over 20 years. At this time, in Scotland there would be an estimated:

· 120 fewer deaths due to alcohol each year

· 2,000 fewer hospital admissions due to alcohol each year

Work commissioned by the Government from the University of Sheffield revealed that 1 year after introducing an MUP in England there would be:

· 50,700 fewer crimes

· 376,600 fewer days absent from work

· 192 fewer deaths

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Professor Petra Meier, Director of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, and another author of the study, added:

“Our study finds no evidence to support the concerns highlighted by Government and the alcohol industry that minimum unit pricing would penalise responsible drinkers on low incomes. Instead, minimum unit pricing is a policy that is targeted at those who consume large quantities of cheap alcohol.

“By significantly lowering rates of ill health and premature deaths in this group, it is likely to contribute to the reduction of health inequalities.”

Minimum pricing for alcohol effectively targets high risk drinkers, with negligible effects on moderate drinkers with low incomes – Research report from the University of Sheffield.

Press summary of the Opinion of the Court in the reclaiming motion by the Scotch Whisky Association and others against the Lord Advocate and the Advocate General for Scotland

 

Cheap alcohol: the price we pay and the road to Minimum Unit Pricing!

It has been five years since alcohol partners from across the UK carried out their last comprehensive price survey. A lot has happened in that time. The Coalition Government committed to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) to tackle the harm caused by the cheapest alcohol. Then, with encouragement from sections of the alcohol industry, they decided to postpone its introduction until the outcome of a legal challenge to minimum unit pricing in Scotland had been resolved. The alcohol duty escalator – which increased duty by 2% above inflation – was scrapped. Wider duty rates were cut. And alcohol harm continued to rise.

Four member organisations of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) – the Institute of Alcohol Studies; Alcohol Focus Scotland; Balance, the North East Alcohol Office; and Healthier Futures – decided to check how those changes had affected the price of alcohol that is available in communities across England and Scotland.

As part of the survey, the partners visited a range of off-sales premises looking for the nation’s cheapest booze. Almost 500 products were examined and the conclusion is clear – alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices in supermarkets and off-licences across the UK.

Chairman of the AHA and former president of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, said:

“In spite of a government commitment to tackle cheap, high-strength alcohol, these products are still available at pocket money prices. Harmful drinkers and children are still choosing the cheapest products – predominantly white cider and cheap vodka.

We need to make excessively cheap alcohol less affordable through the tax system, including an increase in cider duty. It’s not right that high strength white cider is taxed at a third of the rate for strong beer. 

In addition, we need minimum unit pricing. This would target the cheap, high strength products drunk by harmful drinkers whilst barely affecting moderate drinkers, and it would leave pub prices untouched.”

Each year, there are almost 23,000 deaths and more than 1 million hospital admissions related to alcohol in England.

More than two-thirds of alcohol sold in the UK is purchased in supermarkets and off-licences.

Headline Findings

  • Alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices, with white cider dominating the market for cheap, high-strength drinks.
  • High-strength white cider products, which are predominantly drunk by dependent and underage drinkers, are sold for as little as 16p per unit of alcohol.
  • For the cost of a standard off-peak cinema ticket you can buy seven and a half litres of 7.5% ABV white cider, containing as much alcohol as 53 shots of vodka.
  • Recent cuts in alcohol taxes allow shops and supermarkets to sell alcohol at pocket money prices but have done little to benefit pubs and their customers.
  • High-strength white cider is taxed at the lowest rate of all alcohol products. A can of 7.5% ABV white cider attracts less than one-third of the duty on a can of beer that is the same strength.

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Recommendations

The Government needs to:

  1. Increase duty on high-strength cider
  2. Reinstate the alcohol duty escalator
  3. Upon leaving the EU, tax all alcoholic drinks categories in proportion to strength
  4. Implement a minimum unit price for all alcoholic drinks.

Minimum unit pricing and tax – dispelling the myths

A minimum unit price would only target the highest strength drinks that cause the most harm. There are many myths surrounding minimum unit pricing, which the alcohol industry uses to dissuade people from supporting it. We have included here just a few of those myths and our responses.

Myth: An MUP would affect moderate drinkers too.
Moderate drinkers would experience very little impact from minimum unit pricing, which makes it one of the most effective measures, as it only targets the most harmful drinks of the kind deliberately sought out in this survey. The price of a pint of beer in a pub, for example, would not be affected by minimum unit pricing.
Myth: Taxation would be more effective than an MUP.
Recent research from the University of Sheffield found that, to achieve the same level of impact as an MUP of 50p, a 28% increase in all alcohol duty would be needed, which is outside the realms of possibility when it comes to what the Government will do. Everyone would be affected by these measures, whereas minimum unit pricing only targets the cheapest, strongest drinks.
Myth: Tax and minimum unit pricing cannot be used together.
Increasing duty and introducing an MUP are often presented as alternative solutions, when they can in fact be used to complement each other. Minimum unit pricing is targeted at the cheapest alcohol that is consumed by the most harmful drinkers but there are limits to its impact on wider population alcohol consumption and health, which increases to duty overall would help to tackle.

Tax rises and tougher rules on alcohol promotions work well,
but they will always work better when combined with minimum unit pricing.

Read the full report here.

Minimum unit pricing and strength-based taxation have larger impacts on health inequalities than increasing current alcohol taxes.

Introducing minimum unit pricing or alcohol-content-taxation would reduce inequalities in health more than increasing alcohol duty under the current tax system or increasing VAT on alcohol, a new report has shown.

Research from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group (SARG) compared four policy strategies for regulating alcohol prices to estimate how changes in alcohol price would affect individual levels of alcohol consumption and the subsequent impact on illness and deaths associated with 43 alcohol-attributable conditions in England.

The study, which is the first of its kind, showed that strategies which strongly link alcohol content with the price of drinks were more suited to tackling health inequalities compared to the current duty system where wine and cider are taxed by total beverage volume regardless of strength, and duty rates per unit of alcohol vary widely between different types of drink.

There are substantial mup-graphhealth inequalities in England, with people in the lowest socioeconomic group dying on average six years earlier than those in the highest. Reducing inequalities in health is a key priority across the globe and tackling alcohol-related harm plays a major role in reducing the gap.          

The research, published today (23 February 2016) in the leading medical journal Plos Medicine, revealed a tax based on alcohol strength and minimum unit pricing would both have large impacts on harmful drinking across all socioeconomic groups, whilst having minimal effects on those drinking in moderation.

The four pricing strategies were chosen at a level estimated to prevent exactly the same number of alcohol-related deaths in the population so that the researchers could compare effects in different groups of the population.

The strategies were:

1) A 13.4 per cent increase in duty for all products under the current UK system.

2) A four per cent tax based on product price.

3) A strength-based tax of 22p per UK alcohol unit.

4) Minimum price of 50p per unit, below which alcohol cannot be sold.

“Alcohol is now 54 per cent more affordable in the UK than it was in 1980 and harmful alcohol consumption is a major public health issue accounting for an estimated 2.7 million deaths globally.

Our findings suggest that minimum unit pricing and taxing alcohol by strength are a well-targeted interventions which would lead to greater reductions in health inequalities compared to the current UK duty system or taxes levied on sales price – a tax system prevalent in many developing countries.

Our results also suggest that a substantial 13.4 per cent increase in current duty would be required to achieve the same overall harm reductions as a 50p minimum unit price.

EU countries have limited options however, as EU law prohibits taxation by strength for wine and cider. The implementation of minimum unit pricing in Scotland is still held up in a court case brought against the Scottish Government by the alcohol industry, where the Government needs to demonstrate that minimum unit pricing would have important public health benefits that cannot be achieved as effectively through existing taxation powers.

Similar plans in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are resting on the outcome of this court case. Although set in England, our study makes a major contribution to the evidence in this respect.”

Professor Petra Meier

Director of SARG at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR)  

“Alcohol taxes are the most common intervention internationally, although minimum unit pricing has recently started to attract much international interest. Until now there was little evidence to support policy makers wishing to compare the health impacts of different taxation. 

Minimum unit pricing and strength-based taxation are better-targeted than the current UK tax system for reducing alcohol-related harm as they have larger effects on heavy drinkers and smaller effects on moderate drinkers.”

Dr John Holmes, Senior Research Fellow at SARG