The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) is urging the Chancellor to reinstate the alcohol duty escalator in this year’s budget, so as to allow the alcohol industry to make a fairer contribution to the harm caused.

The alcohol duty escalator was scrapped last year following intense lobbying by the alcohol industry. The Treasury has estimated that this will cost the Exchequer over £1.5 billion over five years, enough to cover the annual salaries of more than 9500 nurses or over 1.3 million emergency ambulance call-outs a year – more than a quarter of the current annual total.

The government estimates that the cost of alcohol related harm to the NHS totals £3.7 billion every year – equivalent to £120 for every tax payer in the country. The wider cost to the UK economy is estimated to be more than £21billion – more than double the £10 billion revenue currently generated from alcohol taxes.

In an advert published in The Times today (see below), members of the AHA express concern that the alcohol industry, which already receives significant tax breaks, is calling for further cuts in duty at a time when the NHS is under increasing pressure from preventable alcohol-related admissions.

With the public purse straining under the pressure, the issue has also become more pertinent to the public. A recent survey by the AHA found that over three quarters of the UK public want tax levels on alcohol to either stay the same or to be increased. The AHA has previously asked for a meeting with ministers from the treasury but these requests have been declined.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK and special advisor on alcohol to the Royal College of Physicians said:

‘The taxpayer is already paying too much to foot the bill of alcohol misuse to the NHS and wider society. Funding to our NHS is at crisis point and yet the Government’s tax breaks given to the alcohol industry last year would be enough to pay for an additional 9,500 nurses to work in our A&E departments.

It is disappointing and regrettable that we have to take out an advert in the Times to try to get through to Ministers at the Treasury to impress on them the urgency and importance of this matter.   It is time that Government stopped listening to alcohol ‘big business’ to the exclusion of independent health experts and the public.’

References for figures quoted can be found here.

Fieldwork for the AHA survey was undertaken between the 23rd October and the 9th November 2014, with a final sample of 3077 respondents. All UK countries were represented and data was weighted by age, gender and socio-economic classification to be representative of the resident population: as a whole and at a country and English region level.