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Tax on alcohol

2nd March 2009

The Scottish government is considering a new range of radical measures to combat problems with alcohol.

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These include a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

The move comes amid growing fears that health ministers are seeing drinking as the new smoking.

The plans, backed by international evidence, are out for public consultation in Scotland with ministers due to come forward with more detailed proposals for legislation in the coming weeks.

Medical organisations and charitable groups are in favour of the plans, though retailers fear that they would unfairly penalise moderate drinkers.

The Scottish government is pointing to the experience in Finland where alcohol tax was reduced by a third in 2004 but leading to an increase in alcohol-related harm.

Tax has since been increased in Finland with more regulation on the sale of alcohol.

The country’s National Public Health Institute has been monitoring the cost of cheaper alcohol, noting a rise in hospital admissions of 10% following the tax cut and an increase in alcohol-related deaths.

Since 2005 alcohol-related problems have been the most common cause of death among Finnish people of working age.

The plans in Scotland look set to be monitored closely across the UK.

In Wales, the latest alcohol strategy supports the idea of minimum pricing, and the Department of Health in England is considering research it commissioned which looks at the potential policy impact of increasing pricing.

A move towards minimum pricing would be well received by health sector but opposed by retailers and producers of alcohol.

 

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