Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Six-pack boozers the ones who should be taxed

In a move aimed at reducing damage to the environment, the Assembly is to introduce a tax on plastic bags which, it is estimated, will bring in about £100m a year.

To combat binge-drinking and protect young people, MLAs are considering minimum pricing – a measure whose main effect will be to increase drink industry profits.

It will contribute little, or nothing, to the public purse. Last year, Nelson McCausland estimated that alcohol was costing the local economy about £900m a year. That's £75m a month going down the pan at a time when we are short of money for schools and hospitals.

Those who doubt the accuracy of that estimate should peruse the columns of this newspaper almost any day, where they will see reports of deaths, brawls and domestic violence – the vast majority fuelled by our favourite and widely promoted substance.

Drunken attacks on frontline medical staff, police, fire and ambulance crews run into thousands. No other drug produces so many column centimetres and harrowing headlines.

Instead of playing follow-my-leader on minimum pricing, along the lines proposed at Westminster and Edinburgh, the Assembly should have the bottle to follow the plastic bag example and tax drinks containers, starting with six-packs. Such a move would compensate for at least some of the damage caused by our burgeoning booze culture.

JOHN GILMORE

Belfast

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