Rise in alcohol duty ‘better than minimum pricing’ to cut A&E visits
A small rise in alcohol duty could cut violence-fuelled emergency department visits in England and Wales by 6000 per year, research suggests. An increase of just 1 per cent above inflation has been named as a better way to reduce the pressure on hospitals than the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP).
Scotland passed minimum pricing legislation four years ago because of “significant” problems with alcohol but it has not yet been implemented due to a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.
However, tax system reforms might be more effective at curbing the toll of injuries sustained through violence suggests research published online in Injury Prevention.
“The additional tax revenue gained, estimated at close to £1 billion a year, would be at the Treasury’s disposal, and could be used to offset the cost of alcohol related harm to the NHS.” Dr Vaseekaran Sivarajasingam, Cardiff University
Last year more than 210,000 people sought emergency care in England and Wales for injuries sustained during violent incidents. The research team at Cardiff University assessed the impact of on-trade (pubs/clubs/bars) and off-trade (retail outlets) alcohol pricing, as well as socioeconomic and environmental factors, on the rate of around 300,000 violence-fuelled attendances at emergency care departments in England and Wales between 2005-12.
Young men most responsible
Three out of four attendees were men, aged between 18 and 30, and monthly injury rates among men were around three times as high as they were among women. Analysis of the data showed that lower on-trade and off-trade alcohol prices were associated with higher numbers of violence fuelled attendances at A&E, after taking account of poverty, differences in household income, spending power and time of year.
The researchers calculated that an estimated rise in on-trade alcohol prices of 1 per cent above inflation could cut the annual tally of violence fuelled emergency care visits by 4260, while the equivalent increase in off-trade alcohol prices could mean 1788 fewer annual attendances, adding up to around 6000 fewer visits in total. Any such policy would need to increase the price of alcohol in both markets, especially on-trade, they say.
“The additional tax revenue gained, estimated at close to £1 billion a year, would be at the Treasury’s disposal, and could be used to offset the cost of alcohol related harm to the NHS.”
Reforming the current alcohol taxation system may be more effective at reducing violence related injury than MUP, they say, which would only target the cheapest alcohol most commonly found in the off-trade market and would be likely to have little effect on the price of alcohol sold in the on-trade market.