Alcohol duty will be frozen until next August, chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced in his autumn statement.
Almost 50 health campaigners including representatives from the British Liver Trust, Humankind and Nacoa earlier this year urged him to increase the duty rate, as alcohol was now 14 per cent more affordable than it had been in 2010 (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/campaigners-urge-chancellor-to-increase-alcohol-duty/).
The autumn statement also saw tobacco duty rise by 2 per cent above the RPI inflation rate, with the duty on hand-rolling tobacco increasing by 12 per cent above RPI. The government recently announced plans to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ by increasing the legal smoking age by one year each year, until it applies to the entire population (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/government-plans-smoke-free-generation/).
Alcohol Change UK Dr Richard Piper said it was ‘astonishing’ that the government had frozen alcohol duty again, calling it ‘a tax cut for wealthy alcohol producers’. The decision to ‘subsidise’ producers was ‘disgraceful’, he stated. ‘Alcohol harm costs all of us taxpayers around £21bn per year and it’s not acceptable that the government is failing to recoup this cost from those who profit from alcohol harm. We need the government to urgently reconsider this decision and remove the freeze on alcohol duty. With alcohol liver deaths rapidly rising, with no signs of that falling back, we desperately need bold action from the government to stop more lives being needlessly lost.’
The freeze was ‘utterly frustrating news’ added Alcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. ‘Freezing duty makes alcohol cheaper to buy in real terms. We know that the cheaper alcohol is, the more is consumed, and the more damage done. Cheap alcohol has unquestionably played a part in the record number of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions we are now experiencing. Reintroducing the alcohol duty escalator from 2008 to 2014 – which increased duty by 2 per cent above inflation each year – would save lives, help hospitality, and contribute to Treasury revenue.’