The UK government believes that alcohol duties should be related to the alcoholic strength of drinks. The government wishes to examine options to amend the structure of the alcohol duty system and did this by consulting on:
- the introduction of a new band to target cheap, high strength ‘white’ ciders, below 7.5% abv
- the impacts of a new lower strength still wine band, to encourage the production and consumption of lower strength wines.
Key points from IPH response
- IPH welcomes the opportunity to submit views on the introduction of a new duty band for cider and perry in the UK. We consider that the primary aim of the new taxation should be to protect and promote public health in all UK jurisdictions.
- Alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost £900 million annually in Northern Ireland (DHSSPS, 2010). IPH recognises the substantive national and international evidence supporting taxation as an effective measure in reducing consumption and alcohol-related harms (WHO, 2013; OECD, 2015).
- The UK weekly low-risk consumption level of alcohol can currently be exceeded for less than £2.24, based on the cheapest white cider available (Alcohol Health Alliance UK, 2016).
- Revised taxation of white cider, linking it appropriately to alcohol strength, is likely to contribute positively to the goals of the Northern Ireland New Strategic Direction and Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2 and Making Life Better.
- Restricting the accessibility of very cheap white ciders through taxation can help reduce the accessibility of cheap alcohol to underage drinkers. Cider was the second most commonly drink seized by the PSNI from underage drinkers.
- It is essential therefore to reduce the immediate risk of alcohol-related harms to child and adolescent health as well as hindering later transition to harmful drinking patterns in adulthood.
- The rate of alcohol-related deaths in Northern Ireland’s most deprived communities is four times that of the least deprived communities (DoH, 2016a).
- Restricting accessibility of very cheap white ciders through taxation can contribute to Northern Ireland policy goals to reduce alcohol-related harm among the heaviest drinkers, binge drinkers and among those in lower socio-economic groups. Therefore this measure has potential positive impacts in reducing stark inequalities in alcohol-related harm.
- The Republic of Ireland’s tax system ensures that white cider cannot be sold at extremely low prices. Cider above 6.0% ABV is taxed at a higher rate and overall cider is taxed at a similar rate to beer. There is a weaker association between cider and harmful drinking in the Republic of Ireland compared to Northern Ireland (Angus et al., 2014a&b; Holmes, 2017).
- Reducing alcohol consumption can have positive impacts for society, including reductions in alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions, lower levels of violence and crime as well as reduced risk for those affects by other people’s drinking such as children and partners/other family members.