A think tank is urging the UK Government to put a new tax on alcohol to fund the treatment of drink and drug addicts.
For years the “full recovery” of alcoholics has been the “preserve of the wealthy “, according to CSJ director Christian Guy.
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has said that by levying a tax on alcohol, drink and drug addicts could be treated in “abstinence” treatment centres, helping to tackle addiction in the UK.
It would see a “treatment tax” of one penny per unit added to off-licence alcohol sales by the end of the next Parliament, raising £1.1billion over the next five years, rising to two pence per unit after 2024. It would mean that after 2024, the average price of a bottle of wine with around 12 units could rise by 24 pence.
The CSJ’s Ambitious for Recovery report, part of the CSJ’s Breakthrough Britain 2015 series, said around 300,000 people in England are addicted to opiates and/or crack, while 1.6 million are dependant on alcohol.
Christian Guy, CSJ director said: “Addiction rips into families, makes communities less safe and entrenches poverty.
“For years full recovery has been the preserve of the wealthy – closed off to the poorest people and to those with problems who need to rely on a public system. We want to break this injustice wide open.”
The measures would raise £155m a year from 2015, rising to about £520m a year from 2024 – funds which would go toward CSJ’s calls for the Government to fund treatment centres for 58,000 addicts per year by 2024.
Money raised would be spent “solely on setting up a network of abstinence-based rehabilitation centres and funding sessions within them. Official records show that the best residential centres in the country get more than 50 per cent of patients free from their addiction problems”, the report said.
However the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which represents the drinks trade, said any tax hike on alcohol would be unfair.
A spokesperson said: “UK consumers already pay some of the highest rates of duty on alcohol in Europe. Currently, the UK has the third highest rate of duty on wine and the fourth highest duty rate for spirits in the EU.
“Further increasing the cost of wine and spirits would undermine an important UK industry which supports almost half a million jobs and in 2012/13 over £40bn of economic activity.”
Other measures proposed by the think tank include scrapping the drug advice site FRANK, involving job centres in identifying and helping addicts and offering benefit claimants with addiction problems support and “abstinence-based” treatment with the threat of sanctions if help is refused.