Thames Reach teamed up
with the Alcohol Health Alliance today to call for duty increases on
high-strength cider, a leading cause of death and ill-health among homeless
evidence on this issue at an event at the House of Commons, sponsored by David
Burrowes MP, which aimed to highlight the impact of alcohol on homeless and
vulnerable people, as well as the need for extra duty on ciders between 5.6%
including products like Frosty Jack’s and
White Ace, are nearly all drunk by homeless and dependent drinkers, and studies
show these ciders are a favourite among children receiving treatment for
The event was addressed
by Gary and Alan, two former rough sleepers, both now abstinent, who gave
moving accounts of the damage high-strength ciders had caused to their lives.
They were joined by
Joanne Good, a mother whose teenage daughter Megan tragically died after
drinking Frosty Jack’s cider at a party.
Studies have found that
75-85% of high-strength cider drinkers choose it because of its low price. At
typically 7.5% ABV, three-litre bottles of these ciders, which contain the same
amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, can be bought for as little as £3.49.
This equates to just 16p per unit.
The calls will put
further pressure on the Government to act on cheap, high-strength ciders in the
budget in March. In December, 43 organisations and experts from the health,
homelessness, children’s and religious sectors wrote to the Chancellor urging
him to increase the duty on cider, and earlier this month polling was released
which showed that 66% of the public back a cider tax.
In addition, the
Institute for Fiscal Studies has previously called for reform to address “the
very low levels of duty charged on strong cider.”
Professor Sir Ian
Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “A can of 500ml cider at 7.5% is taxed less than a third of the
amount taxed on a can of beer the same size and strength. There can be no
justification for the low rates of tax on high-strength cider.
“Our calls today are not
about the drinks consumed by moderate drinkers. Dependent and vulnerable
drinkers account for nearly all sales of high-strength ciders, meaning
increased duty would be targeted at them. Indeed, we know that 80% of total
cider sales would be left unaffected by duty increases on these high-strength
“The budget in March
represents an ideal opportunity for the Government to protect the homeless and
vulnerable through increased cider duty.”
Jeremy Swain, Chief
Executive of Thames Reach, said: “98%
of the homeless people we work with who have alcohol problems primarily drink
bottles and cans of these high-strength ciders and super-strength beers, which
are far stronger than regular and premium drinks. A survey of deaths among
hostel residents over the past year showed that 10 out of 16 were directly
attributable to high and super-strength drinks. This is not a one-off figure.
An earlier survey showed 11 out of 14 deaths (78%) were caused by high and
“By increasing the tax on
these high-strength and dangerous products, the harm done to the vulnerable
people we work with will diminish, and the opportunity to reduce, and
ultimately end, dependence on alcohol will increase.”
David Burrowes MP is
sponsoring the event in Parliament and has long-campaigned locally and
nationally about the harms of alcohol. Mr Burrowes said: “The Government has
rightly put social justice at the heart of everything they do, and this
commitment should extend to preventing the damage done by cheap, high strength
drinks, which blight the lives and health of those who need our support – the
homeless and vulnerable.
“An increase in the duty
on high strength cider at the upcoming budget would represent a step in the
right direction to tackling the burden of cheap alcohol on some of our most