Calls for rise in alcohol tax to reduce number of A&E visits

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Calls for rising alcohol tax to reduce pressure on the NHS

Related tags: Beer duty escalator, Alcoholic beverage, Public house

Increasing the price of alcohol in restaurants and bars could dramatically reduce the number of patients admitted to hospital with violence-related injuries, according to a new study.

Researchers from Cardiff University found that a tax of one per cent above inflation could be more effective at reducing pressure on the NHS than minimum unit pricing.

Writing in the journal Injury Prevention​ the team said that on-trade alcohol prices had ‘a greater impact on violence than off-trade prices’.

Impact on trade

However, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) warned that similar taxes had historically been fatal for the pub industry.

The beer duty escalator, which put up the price of a pint by two per cent above inflation each year, was scrapped in 2013 after it resulted in a 42 per cent tax hike over five years.

During its run the escalator caused beer sales to fall by 16 per cent, resulting in the closure of 7,000 pubs and 58,000 job losses, according to the BBPA.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “A return to the beer duty escalator will lead to more pub closures and penalise the vast majority of consumers who drink responsibly.

"British beer drinkers pay the second highest levels of beer tax in the whole of Europe and 14 times more beer tax than our German counterparts.”

Taking action

The BBPA said that improving public education and partnerships between the pub industry, police and public health authorities was proving far more effective in tackling alcohol-related harm than imposing taxes.

“Alcohol consumption has fallen 19 per cent since 2004, and indicators of harmful drinking and alcohol related violence are also falling,” said Simmonds.

Scotland passed minimum pricing legislation in 2012 due to ‘significant’ problems with alcohol, but it has not yet been implemented due to a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.

A Treasury spokesperson said that the Government had no plans to introduce further taxes on alcohol but instead aimed to encourage ‘responsible’ consumption.

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