‘Our NHS can’t afford for alcohol to get any cheaper’

Times advert Alcohol Alliance

This advert ran in The Times on the 26th February and this was the text:

Alcohol Health Alliance: ‘our NHS can’t afford for alcohol to get any cheaper’

As seen in The Times

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.

By the time this post goes up we’ll know the budget results from 18th March and whether this plea has fallen on ears deafened by the sound of the lobbying of the alcohol industry – which it seems it did:

Industry profits trump public health as alcohol duty cut yet again in Budget

6 thoughts on “‘Our NHS can’t afford for alcohol to get any cheaper’

  1. I agree that this this approach to alcohol duty and regulation seems almost criminally negligent 🙁

    I was watching a television programme last night where there were several bar scenes – loud, rowdy, and violent. it was based in a mining town and the miners were portrayed as letting off steam, celebrating, professing undying friendship for one another over shot glasses of spirits.

    and I concur that the lobbying of the alcohol industry is immensely powerful and invidious. the alcohol industry however is supplying a demand (which it also feeds into and promotes incessantly) which is that for alcohol as a social lubricant and emotional airbag.

    because it is so much simpler to have a drink with someone than it is to actually get to know them, so much simpler to have a drink after a hard days work than it is to deal with difficult feelings.

    I think that the value – and also costs – of alcohol as a social and emotional lubricant can be compared to those of the motor car for human mobility. as a society we are prepared to pay the price of pollution, road deaths, and the vast network of land trapped forever beneath tarmac, for the ability to travel rapidly from one place to another.

    but with the car there are safety factors built into every vehicle. every driver has to pass tests to be allowed to drive on the road. there are laws in place over speed and behaviour. cars are licensed, serviced and insured to protect other drivers on the road from ill-maintained vehicles. for those drivers who mildly contravene the recommendations, there are courses to attend to improve driving safety.

    whereas protection of the individual from alcohol is governed merely by the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations*, by ill-enforced licencing laws, and by the utterly laughable exhortation to ‘please drink responsibly’.

    all of which mean that the responsibility is placed firmly on the individual so that it cannot possibly be the fault of our alcogenic society.

    it would be hilarious if it weren’t so deeply tragic.

    Lou, thank you for everything you do to blow away the clouds of misinformation and alcohol industry bullshit. I know you have helped so many people (myself included) to free ourselves. xxx

    *http://www.ias.org.uk/Alcohol-knowledge-centre/Consumption/Factsheets/A-good-measure-Units-and-drinking-guidelines.aspx

    1. Thank you for your ongoing friendship and support Prim 🙂 The car and driving analogy is brilliant! I wish I could laugh about it but I have nursed and experienced too many die from the effects of alcohol on the physical body and know the devastating psychological and social impact it has on families first hand xx

  2. Those are some stunning numbers 🙁 9500 nurses! Once again, profits are more important than the burden on the health care system. I like the auto/alcohol analogy, too. And… like Prim, I’d like to send some gratitude your way: 29 days until 1 year for me! Thanks to you and all the other lovely sober bloggers out there! xx

    1. Wow Lori – only 29 days to go for you!! Woop woop 😀 Let’s focus on that happy event not the ongoing joke of alcohol policy and public health xx

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