England: Alcohol Industry Relies On Heavy Users
Alcohol harms in England are extensive and well acknowledged. The government estimate that alcohol harm in England and Wales costs £21bn annually, including cost to the health service, alcohol-related crime and losses to the economy.
This level of alcohol harm and related costs are driven by alarming patterns of consumption in significant segments of the English population. Nearly one-third of alcohol sold in England is being consumed by 4% of the population. The figure from Public Health England emerged during parliamentary debate on minimum unit price on alcohol.
Big Alcohol addicted to heavy users
Just 4% of the population consume almost a third of all the alcohol sold in England, according to healthcare data. This fact exposes the Big Alcohol’s ‘dirty little secret’, that Big Alcohol is addicted to heavy users for their profits. The majority of these alcohol consumers are consuming very cheap, high-strength alcohol such as cider.
Rosanna O’Connor, director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco at Public Health England (PHE) said:
Around 4.4% of the population are drinking just under a third of the alcohol consumed in this country. That’s around 2 million drinking just over 30% of the alcohol.”
A three-litre bottle of cider containing 22.5 units of alcohol can be bought for as little as £3.60. If the 50p minimum unit price were to be introduced, the costs would jump to £11.
The result would be a significant impact on a small group of people. That’s why it’s such a targeted policy for such great health gains.”
And it is also why the alcohol industry has been fighting tooth and nail opposing the measure.
Those supporting the minimum unit price measure say it only targets a small group of heavy alcohol users, such as street alcohol users, underage and young people “pre-loading” before a night out. Unlike a tax, it will not impact alcohol price in pubs and clubs, which they say could have a negative impact on the night-time economy. Critics of the proposals say money raised from a minimum unit price goes straight to the manufacturers, while increased duty could be used to provide alcohol treatment programs.