Alcohol taxes are a cash cow for Government, say public

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Selfish: two thirds of people said they felt drink tax increases were more about raising money for Government.
Selfish: two thirds of people said they felt drink tax increases were more about raising money for Government.

Related tags Public health Alcoholic beverage

Just one in ten people believe that increased taxes on alcohol go towards helping those who misuse the substance, according to new research by alcohol consumer organisation Drinkers’ Voice.

In a poll of nearly 1,700 people commissioned by the organisation and undertaken by YouGov, respondents overwhelmingly stated their belief that taxes do not go towards improving public health services.

Just 8% agreed that an increase in taxes was more about raising money to improve public health, while two thirds of people said they felt tax increases are more about raising money for Government.

Taxes on alcoholic drinks have increased substantially in recent years. Last week, as part of a campaign organised by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), more than 200,000 beer mats featuring warnings about high beer taxes were handed out​ at 2,000 pubs across the country.

The mats emphasise the 39% tax rise beer drinkers have had to endure in the past 10 years.

Minimum unit pricing

Last week, the Welsh Government announced its intention to introduce minimum unit pricing​ on alcoholic drinks in Wales, in a bid to address health concerns around excessive alcohol consumption.

The Welsh Government believes the measure will reduce alcohol misuse, while critics believe it is an attack on low-income earners.

Speaking about the level of taxes on alcohol, Drinkers’ Voice chair Byron Davies said: “The transparent attacks made by so-called health campaigners who are trying to portray drinking as the new smoking has encouraged successive governments to drive up taxes on alcohol.

“The UK Government currently receives as much as £10.7bn a year in alcohol duty, and it is shameful that the Welsh Government is now looking to increase the costs of a drink for consumers even more so.”

The majority of us who do drink, do so responsibly, and it is clear that simply pricing low-income earners out of drinking does little to help the few who do abuse alcohol,” he continued.  “A blanket approach which seeks to make alcohol less accessible to everyone is not the answer - what is needed is targeted support for those who are grappling with a drink problem.”

'Nanny state' public health lobby

Taxpayers’ Alliance chief executive John O’Connell added that taxes on alcohol treated consumers as “little more than cash cows,” and called on the Government to cut alcohol duty in this month’s Autumn Budget.

"The British public are not fools and they know that higher taxes on drinks are imposed simply to boost Treasury coffers,” he said. “People who work hard all day and relax with a drink in the evening are seen as little more than cash cows by bureaucrats desperately scrambling around for taxpayers' money to fritter away.

“The Government must stop pandering to the nanny statists (sic) in the public health lobby, and instead show they are on the side of the consumer by cutting alcohol duty."

In an open letter to the Government earlier this month, eight leading pub organisations warned “disproportionate” taxes in the pub industry​ were putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The letter singled out beer duty and business rates as the two biggest threats to the sector. 

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