Cheap alcohol is fueling the massive alcohol burden in England according to public health experts. Urgent policy action to increase alcohol prices is called for to reduce the burden and help the nation with pandemic recovery.

An analysis by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK found that it is possible to buy 14 units of alcohol – the weekly maximum as per the governmental low risk alcohol use guidelines – for as cheap as £2.68 in England. This is the price of one cup of coffee in most major high street chains.

Cost of week’s worth of alcohol
In England a week’s worth of alcohol can be bought for as cheap as £2.68.

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK which is a coalition of more than 50 organizations that include medical royal colleges and health charities, are calling on ministers to take urgent action to tackle the cheap, high-strength alcohol problem in England.

According to the analysis, the cheapest products of alcohol in all of UK were found in England. This is because England is the only country in the UK without an alcohol floor price.

Both Scotland and Wales have implemented the 50 pence minimum unit price (MUP) policy. The MUP policy is proving effective in reducing alcohol use in both Scotland and Wales, specifically benefiting those with alcohol problems and those in lower socio-economic standing.

Already alcohol is causing massive harm to British people and the economy. Alcohol causes about 80 deaths in the UK every day. As Movendi International reported in an analysis of England’s alcohol burden:

  • Alcohol costs the NHS an estimated £3.5 billion in total annually.
  • The total social cost of alcohol to society is estimated to be at least £21 billion a year.
  • The number of people in England now consuming alcohol in high-risk amounts nearly doubled during the pandemic, to 8.4 million.

An Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) report revealed that a hidden problem exists of heavy alcohol users consuming even more alcohol during the pandemic.

Cheap alcohol is to blame for much of this burden. Since England does not have an MUP there is cheap cider available for as low as 19 pence. According to the Alcohol Health Alliance UK study,  the most vulnerable groups tend to consume this cheap, high-strength cider, including children, heavy alcohol users and homeless people.

Pocket money-priced [alcoholic beverages] are fueling rates of harm amongst some of our most vulnerable communities, with strong white ciders in particular proving lethal,” said Dr. Katherine Severi, Chief Executive at the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), as per the Independent UK.

Dr. Katherine Severi, Chief Executive, Institute of Alcohol Studies

When comparing alcohol costs to the alcohol duty collected, it shows that England is loosing billions of pounds every year.

Public Health England estimates that alcohol costs the UK at least £27 billion a year. Yet over the past five years, alcohol duty has raised just £10.5-£12.1 billion annually,” said Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, as per the Independent UK.

To tackle the harm alcohol causes, we need to urgently address its price. Alcohol duty is currently too low to cover the costs of alcohol harm to our society.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chairman, Alcohol Health Alliance UK

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK calls for higher alcohol taxes complemented with implementing a minimum unit price (MUP) in England, too, to tackle the cheap alcohol problem which is fueling widespread harm. This is specifically important in the current context to recover healthily from the pandemic.

Now, more than ever, we need to be fighting fit as a nation and looking to reduce the additional burden on the NHS and emergency services caused by cheap alcohol,” urged Dr. Severi.

Dr. Katherine Severi, chief executive,Institute of Alcohol Studies

As Movendi International has reported, doctors and public health experts have been urging the government to implement the MUP policy in England and thereby reduce the burden on NHS, specifically during this pandemic.

Source Website: Independent UK