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Drinks trade rejects calls for higher alcohol taxes

Published:  23 July, 2008

The drinks trade has rebuked calls from the medical profession for higher taxes on alcohol after government figures showed alcohol-related hospital admissions have doubled in the past 10 years.

According to figures released by the Government's information centre for health and social care, almost 190,000 people were admitted to UK hospitals for excessive drinking in 2005. The report also highlighted alcohol is cheaper than ever, being 65% more affordable than in 1980.

Professor Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said increased alcohol taxes could "inject badly needed resources while making an important contribution, through reducing the nation's consumption, to reducing the future burden of ill-health".

But David Poley, chief executive of drinks industry watchdog, The Portman Group, said: "A tax increase would be a sweeping and disproportionate measure which would make alcohol more expensive for the majority of people who drink responsibly. There is no evidence to suggest [it] would cut levels of alcohol misuse."

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, said: "Taxation is a very blunt weapon. If you increase taxes on alcohol you penalise the majority who drink sensibly. Price is not necessarily the issue - alcohol misuse is a cultural problem and we should tackle it with education."

While 69% of people had heard of the government guidelines on alcohol consumption, more than a third said they did not know what the recommendations were.

In May, the government introduced a voluntary alcohol unit information-labelling scheme to raise awareness of the guidelines and sensible consumption. Whether this will impact on consumer behaviour remains to be seen.

According to a recent Trading Standards survey, 25% of men drink more than the recommended 21 units a week and 13% women drink more than their recommended 14 units.