Changes to alcohol duty will help tackle epidemic of alcohol harm

Posted on: 9th August 2023

Following years of sustained advocacy by the British Liver Trust and the Alcohol Health Alliance, significant changes have been introduced to the UK’s alcohol duty system that will take effect this month, which will help save lives, tackle alcohol harm and curb rising rates of alcohol related liver disease – raising over £13 billion in revenue for vital public services in 2023/24[1].

The most significant change is that after a decade of cuts and freezes to alcohol duty, the level of duty will now rise with inflation.  The tax level will also be based on alcohol strength, rather than the sale price, to discourage the production of cheap, high strength alcohol which causes the most harm – a global good practice recommended by the World Health Organisation[2].

Responding to the alcohol duty changes, British Liver Trust Chief Executive, Pamela Healy OBE, said: “We welcome the Government’s decision to increase alcohol duty in line with inflation which will help save lives.

Reducing harmful and hazardous drinking is critical as alcohol related liver disease is a silent killer which is asymptomatic in the early stages – with a quarter of those diagnosed in hospital dying within 60 days.

We urge the Government to keep pace with the rising scale of the liver disease crisis by investing the estimated £13 billion of alcohol duty revenue into frontline NHS and alcohol treatment services.”

Over the last decade, alcohol duty has been frozen or cut almost every year – making alcohol significantly cheaper and more accessible to the highest risk drinkers. Under plans first set out two years ago, the new duty system intends to encourage drinkers to reduce their alcohol consumption by taxing all alcohol based on strength.

These changes represent a critical step forward in safeguarding public health, reducing alcohol-related harm, and addressing the silent killer that is alcohol-related liver disease. By supporting these efforts, the UK can make significant progress in promoting responsible alcohol consumption and protecting the well-being of its citizens.