Call to tax alcohol on its strength to deter binge drinking

The amount of duty paid on alcohol should be overhauled to deter binge drinking, leading charities have proposed.

Charities Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Health Alliance believe the current duty system does not incentivise consumption of lower strength alcohol.

The charities have proposed that beers and ciders over 3.7% should be more heavily taxed.

They submitted the proposals to the Treasury and Home Office, which are currently reviewing alcohol tax and price.

Professor Ian Gilmore, former president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: ‘The current alcohol tax system has developed piecemeal and lacks consistency. Alcohol should be taxed on the basis of how much alcohol a product contains, and the government’s plan to ban below cost selling will miss most of the current heavy discounting that is fuelling the damage to the nation’s health.’

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said: ‘Higher and more consistent alcohol taxes for stronger products would deter producers and consumers who would switch to lower strength beers, ciders and wines.’

The proposed model would add a 10% duty on beers and ciders between 3.7% and 5.2%. Lower strength products below this level would be unaffected.

A 2003 study by the Treasury found that a 10% increase in duty would reduce alcohol-related mortality by 28% for men and 37% for women, according to Alcohol Concern.

Beers and ciders above 5.2% would be subject to 20% rise to deter producers from making high strength drinks, often sold as ‘loss leaders’ by supermarkets.

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