A policing chief has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for the Government to look at alcohol pricing.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, says cheap alcohol is “damaging the health of vulnerable people in our communities”.
He has supported North East health campaigners Balance in their calls for an increase in duty on strong white cider.
The PCC believes the targeted approach will protect young people and the vulnerable without impacting on the local licensed trade.
Mr Coppinger has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond and Jane Ellison, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, ahead of the government’s budget announcement in March.
The Commissioner points out that three years of cuts and freezes in alcohol duty mean three litres of white cider, containing the equivalent of 22 shots of vodka, can currently cost as little as £3.50.
Strong white ciders tend to be the drink of choice for street drinkers, heavy drinkers and those underage, who often end up needing to use treatment services.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Mr Coppinger said: “Very cheap and very strong cider is damaging the health of vulnerable people in our communities.
“Calling for responsible taxation is not being a spoilsport or killjoy and is not intended to threaten the licensed trade.
“It is aimed at encouraging responsible social drinking, not that which damages people or communities.
“I support the campaign work of Balance and our local alcohol partnerships and these measures will mean further progress if adopted.”
In the letter he wrote: “Given your Government’s intention to improve the lives of people who are just about managing, I urge you to look closely at the impact strong white cider has on some of their lives.
“Tackling this tax anomaly would save lives, help families and protect children while strengthening the wider economy.”
Colin Shevils, director of Balance North East, said: “It’s clear that cheap alcohol is doing damage to some of the most vulnerable groups in our communities – and the biggest culprit is cheap white cider.
“Brands such as Frosty Jack’s are one of the drinks of choice for children who end up needing specialist alcohol treatment.
“It’s available for under £4 yet contains the equivalent of 22 shots of vodka.
“We urge the Government to protect our children and others by increasing duty on strong white cider in the March budget.”