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Make high-strength cider more expensive to save NHS £100m a year, says study

Salford spends over £100m a year paying for the damage left over from cheap, high-strength alcohol harming the most vulnerable in our community.

So say Manchester social enterprise Healthier Futures in a new survey released this week.

It found supermarkets selling the equivalent of 53 shots of alcohol for the price of one cinema ticket: around a tenner.

And health experts suggests raising the tax duty on high-strength white cider, as it’s the most common ‘drink of choice’ for dependent, underage and street drinkers.

The survey – part of a national Alcohol Health Alliance report – analysed more than 200 products in supermarkets and off licenses across the North West.

Among the distributors were high-street names Tesco, Aldi, Co-Op and Bargain Booze, who all sold white ciders and perries for incredibly cheap prices.

It found that products were being sold for as little as 18p per unit, and that of the ten cheapest alcoholic drinks, eight were cheap ciders.

At 7.5% ABV, cheap cider is often sold in three-litre plastic bottles, containing as much alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, for as little as £3.50.

Healthier Futures say that in Salford alone there have been 1,450 alcohol-related hospital admissions and almost 7,500 reported alcohol-related crimes.

As a result, Salford and the NHS are billed £107 million each year, the equivalent of £460 for each person living in Salford: one of the highest cost burdens in the whole country.

Healthier Futures believes that to protect those vulnerable groups duty on strong white ciders should be increased so that they are at least in line with beers and lagers.

Chief Executive of Healthier Futures, Andrea Crossfield, explained: “These industrial-strength white ciders are subject to very low duty at 5p per unit.

“They are the curse of doctors, alcohol treatment services and homeless charities – and not least dependent drinkers themselves.

“Producers are using the current duty system to sell more of these harmful products to the most vulnerable.

“We are confident that raising the duty level will reduce health harms, crimes and ultimately costs to our NHS and police services,”

“The other main policy we would advocate would be to set a floor price for all alcohol products, below which a unit of alcohol (the amount of alcohol in a single shot of vodka) could not be sold.

“The Scottish Government has passed a law which would see a 50 pence minimum unit price, which experts at Sheffield University tell us would save 1,000 lives in England over 10 years, cut 50,000 crimes and save public services £5billion.

“A minimum unit price would not only stop very cheap ciders but also spirits, and have a dramatic effect in reducing alcohol-related crimes and health harms”.

These products have often been targeted at young people: Frosty Jack’s, the leading high-strength cider brand, has consistently been among the top five most consumed brands by underage drinkers in alcohol treatment, say Healthier Futures.

The report explains that recent cuts in alcohol taxes allow supermarkets to sell alcohol at rock bottom prices, but have done little to benefit pubs or their customers.

Alcohol prices relative to people’s income have fallen hugely over the past 50 years, driving the increase in harm to individuals, the NHS, police and social services.

The total cost of alcohol harm a year in Greater Manchester is £1.17 billion, or £436 for every person.

There are more than 16,700 alcohol related-crimes and 66,790 alcohol-related hospital admissions.

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