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Government drops alcohol prices

The price of many types of alcohol will be reduced, while the price of tobacco will be slightly increased, which healthcare leaders claim is a "step backwards". 

From 24 March 2014, low strength beers will have their price dropped by 6% while high strength beers will see a price drop of 0.75%, it was announced in the Chancellor's budget yesterday. 

The price of spirits and most ciders will remain the same, but wine and high strength cider may increase. 

The government has recently announced a plan to ban extreme discounting of alcohol in England and Wales, with "new rules" - which have yet to be unveiled - for minimum pricing. The discount ban is due to come into effect on 6 April 2014. 

Professor Sheila Hollins, chair of the British Medical  Association's Board of Science, said the government has "abandoned any serious efforts to tackle alcohol-related harm. 

She said: “The government is giving with one hand and taking with another, with a step forward on measures to reduce smoking but backward on tackling alcohol related harm.

"With the costs of alcohol related harm estimated at £20bn in England alone, of which £2bn is on healthcare, there is a clear economic as well as a public health case for why urgent action is needed.

"The BMA will continue to call on the government to introduce a minimum unit price. We know that minimum pricing reduces alcohol related harm amongst the heaviest drinkers while leaving responsible drinkers largely unaffected. This is because virtually all pub drinks, as well as the majority of shop-bought beers, wines and spirits would not be affected by a proposed 50p threshold.”

“The announcement to extend the tobacco escalator is an important and welcome one. It will reduce the affordability of cigarettes, which is key to deterring children from starting to smoke. With half of smokers dying from a smoking related disease anything that makes it less attractive is a step in the right direction."