2p 'treatment tax' on beer urged
Ministers have been urged to put an extra 2p tax on the price of beer to help pay for alcohol rehabilitation, after new figures showed the number of drink-related hospital admissions in England has passed 1.2 million.
The Centre for Social Justice said the new "treatment tax" should be levied on alcohol sales from off-licences and supermarkets at the rate of a penny per unit - the equivalent of 2p on a pint of beer, 9p on an average bottle of wine or 28p on a 70cl bottle of spirits such as gin, vodka or whisky.
The thinktank argued that the tax could raise £1.1 billion over the next five years to pay for effective residential rehab treatment for people with alcohol and drug addictions.
CSJ director Christian Guy said that action was needed to cut the burden on the NHS of alcohol-related hospital admissions, which have risen in England by more than 5% over the past two years to more than 1.2 million. As many as 70% of accident and emergency visits in the early hours are drink-related and 40% of A&E attendances at weekends are caused by alcohol, said the thinktank.
Citing official Department of Health figures showing 1,168,266 admissions in 2010/11 and 1,232,464 in 2012/13, Mr Guy said the number could pass 1.5 million by the time of the general election in May.
"Alcohol abuse can rip into families, make communities less safe and entrench poverty," said Mr Guy.
"This is a growing problem but for years effective treatment has been the preserve of the wealthy.
"It's time to break this injustice wide open and fund a new generation of rehabilitation treatment."
CSJ researchers were also critical of a lack of prosecutions of individuals serving alcohol to people who are drunk. There were only 29 convictions in England over the five years 2009 to 2013. In the last recorded year there were five. The CSJ called for Police and Crime Commissioners to put more resources into cracking down on those who sell alcohol to drunks.