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Portsmouth MP Takes Aim at High Alcohol Cider

Portsmouth’s MP Flick Drummond has waged a war against boozy drinks such as Frosty Jack’s cider, which are sold at low-prices and contain excessive levels of alcohol.

The Portsmouth South MP met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond in London and urged him to impose legislation on the pricing of high alcohol cider drinks.

(Mrs Drummond with Phillip Hammond)

As a city, Portsmouth has the third-highest alcohol mortality rate of any local authority throughout the country. As a result, booze related illnesses are now a far larger killer than tobacco-related illnesses.

Mrs Drummond went to 11 Downing Street alongside two other MPs who are also concerned with the cause.

She said: “It was good to meet with the Chancellor and make the case for minimum pricing of this type of alcohol which is causing a great deal of harm in Portsmouth where alcohol related hospital admissions for complaints like liver disease have risen.”

She continued, “The Chancellor was very interested in our proposals to increase the price of these drinks and we made a compelling case they are too cheap and increase the burdens on health and social care, while destroying the ability of those consuming it to be economically active.”

Problem drinking has been a problem in Portsmouth for many years now, especially with budget supermarkets offering it at such low prices. Mrs Drummond pointed out that a brand, such as Frosty Jack’s, is readily available in Iceland for £3.50 for 3 litres. This equates to 15.5p per unit of alcohol. An unacceptable amount.

Unbelievably, an entire bottle of Frosty Jack’s contains 22.5 units, which is over the recommended number of units for a man in an entire week.

For many, this kind of alcohol is readily available and often purchased by those dependent on alcohol through addiction. Explaining her reason for persuing this on behalf of the people of Portsmouth, Drummond explained, “This sort of cider has now become the drink of choice for high-dependency drinkers because it is cheap after duty changes on super-strength lagers have made those less attractive.”

“We told the Chancellor it could be possible now to increase the duty on strong cider above 5.5% to target cheap shop-bought cider without harming trade in small volume craft cider producers.

“Failing that it could be achieved by imposing a minimum unit price. A 50p MUP would have no impact at all on the pub trade because the minimum price of a pint of beer on that basis would still be about £1.20 – but it would more than treble the cost of cheap white cider.”

In raising the prices of these drinks, Drummond believes that research has shown that alcohol abuse can be “choked off”. The group Alcohol Concern and a coalition of homelessness charities have in the past called for an outright ban on these types of ciders. These brands, unlike Frosty Jack’s, include White Lightening, White Ace and White Star, which were formally being sold for as little as 59p a bottle.

Former Chancellor, Alistair Darling, once attempted to tackle this issue by imposing a 10% tax rise above inflation on ciders, however the plans were abandoned after the cider industries protestations. The coalition government then attempted to differentiate white ciders from traditional ciders in the Alcohol Liquor Duties Order. The problem however remains every presence.

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