Think-tank says alcohol duties steer drinkers to illegal booze

Ben Southwood
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HIGH ALCOHOL duties are driving drinkers to dangerous and duty-free illegal beverages, a report from the Institute of Economic Affairs claimed today.

As the price of legally-purchased alcoholic beverages rises, more and more consumers are turning to illicit alternatives, the report claims, losing the exchequer as much as £1.2bn every year.

“The government's focus on maximising tax revenues is short-sighted and dangerous,” said report author Christopher Snowdown. “Aside from losing money by encouraging consumers to find cheaper illicit alternatives, public health and public order are also being put at risk by high prices.

“Minimum alcohol pricing might seem like a quick fix to tackle problem drinking, but it is likely to cause many more problems by pushing people towards the black market in alcohol,” Snowdown added.

The report argued high duties are ineffective at reducing alcohol consumption – pointing out that low-tax France and Spain consume a similar amount to high-tax Finland and the UK.