Campaigners’ plea to Government over impact of alcohol and tobacco on North East’s health

Colin Shevills of Balance.
Colin Shevills of Balance.

Health experts in the North East are calling on the Government to tackle the crippling toll of alcohol and tobacco and plug much-needed public finances in next week’s Budget.

The call comes as pooled estimates show tobacco and alcohol-related illnesses together cost the region more than £1.6billion a year.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, Smoke Free North East.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, Smoke Free North East.

Alcohol cost the region £1.01billion in 2015-16 and tobacco £613million in 2017 through NHS costs, GP appointments, hospital admissions, crime and disorder, sickness, absenteeism and lost productivity among staff and social services support.

Balance, the North East alcohol office, wants an end to alcohol tax breaks to ease the pressure on the NHS, police and other public services .

It says there should be a 2% above inflation increase in alcohol duty, and the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol, like in Scotland.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “Cheap alcohol continues to wreak immense damage and places a huge burden on communities, the NHS and public services. We just cannot afford any more alcohol duty cuts.”

Fresh, the regoin’s dedicated tobacco control programme, is supporting a call from Action on Smoking and Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies to increase tobacco tax from 2% to 5% above inflation.

The organisation is also calling for a levy on tobacco manufacturers to pay more for the harm caused by smoking and help further cut smoking rates.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, director of Fresh, added: “Tobacco – whether it is legal or illegal - will kill one in two long term smokers, killing 78,000 people a year in England and 15 people a day here in the North East.

“Regions like the North East have had the heaviest smoking rates and we pay the highest price.”