James Forsyth

Don’t clobber drinkers

Don't clobber drinkers
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The idea of vastly increasing the tax on alcohol to deal with Britain’s ‘binge-drinking’ problem is gaining ground. The Tory Social Justice policy group was keen on the idea and now the British Medical Association has come out in favour of it. It certainly appeals to the ‘something must be done’ school of thought but it is also grossly unfair as Charles Moore argues in the Telegraph today. As he puts it,

“In 2004, 21.6 million adults who drank alcohol consumed less than the recommended guidelines per week, whereas 1.8 million consumed at very heavy levels (more than double the guidelines). So a price rise designed to deter the excessive drinkers - even if it worked - would inflict collateral damage on the innocent 90 or so per cent of the drinking population.”

Another point worth bearing in mind is--as Fraser pointed out when the Tories were flirting with the idea--is that alcohol competes against a bunch of drugs that don’t have to pay tax because they are illegal. Making drink prohibitively expensive could result in pushing many of those prone to addiction on to harder and more dangerous drugs.  

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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