Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 alcohol-related deaths in England

  • University of Sheffield

  • curated by Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to a new research from the University of Sheffield.

The study modelled the effect of the Government's decision to abolish the alcohol duty escalator in 2013, a policy which had previously seen alcohol prices rise at 2 per cent above annual inflation rates. Since then, the Government has also frozen and made further cuts to alcohol duty, leading to lower prices and making shop-bought alcohol more affordable now than at any time in the past 30 years, according to the study authors.

This new study, commissioned by the Institute of Alcohol, used data on alcohol consumption, consumer spending habits, consumer and supplier responses to duty changes, alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths, health inequalities, costs to the NHS and costs associated with alcohol-related crime and workplace absence.

The data revealed that cuts to alcohol duties since 2012 led to a 1 per cent rise in alcohol consumption in England. This led to almost 2000 additional alcohol-related deaths between 2012 and 2019, compared to if the alcohol escalator had remained in place until 2015 as originally planned.

The study found the knock-on effects of these cuts have been an increase of over 61,000 hospital admissions since 2012 at an estimated cost of £317 million to the NHS, an estimated additional 111,063 instances of alcohol-related crime and an economic value of £58 million in lost working days for businesses in England.

The authors say: "Reintroducing an alcohol duty escalator in 2020 would be an effective way to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms, resulting in an estimated 4,700 fewer deaths in England and 420 in Scotland over the period to 2032 as a result.”