Research released today shows there is an abundance of high strength alcohol sold for pocket money prices in shops and supermarkets across the UK.
A review of alcohol prices in a range of retailers found products like high strength white ciders, which are predominantly drunk by dependent and underage drinkers, available for as little as 16p per unit.
This means that for the cost of a standard off-peak cinema ticket it is possible to buy almost seven and a half litres of high strength white cider, containing as much alcohol as 53 shots of vodka.
The findings are released today in a report by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), a group of medical royal colleges, alcohol organisations and health bodies. The report argues that recent cuts in alcohol taxes allow supermarkets to sell alcohol at rock bottom prices, but have done little to benefit pubs and their customers.
Chair of the AHA, leading liver doctor 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. In fact, pubs could benefit from minimum unit pricing, as it would prevent the proliferation of cheap alcohol in our supermarkets.
It’s time the government took action and made all high strength alcohol less attractive to vulnerable drinkers.
Each year there are almost 23,000 deaths and more than one million hospital admissions related to alcohol in England and Government figures estimate that alcohol harm costs UK society more than £21billion.
The report, Cheap alcohol: the price we pay, warns that, unless action is taken on the availability of cheap alcohol, harms associated with alcohol consumption will continue to rise, increasing the burden on the NHS and public services.
Note: Research was carried out by Alcohol Focus Scotland, Balance the North East Alcohol Office, Healthier Futures and the Institute of Alcohol Studies. Data were collected during April-May 2016. A total of 483 products were analysed.