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Rise in alcohol tax could cut violence-related ED visits

About 6,000 ED visits a year in England and Wales could be prevented by increasing alcohol prices, say researchers 

A small rise in alcohol duty could cut violence-related emergency department visits by 6,000 a year in England and Wales, say researchers. 

Photo: SPL

Evidence suggests that the price of alcohol affects consumption levels, so the researchers assessed the impact of on-trade (pubs, clubs and bars) and off-trade (retail outlets) alcohol pricing on the rate of violence-related attendances at 100 emergency departments (EDs) in England and Wales between 2005 and 2012. 

They also looked at national data on alcohol pricing as well as expenditure and socioeconomic and environmental factors for the eight-year period. 

The researchers found that between 2005 and 2012 just short of 300,000 visits were made by adults to 100 emergency departments in England and Wales as a result of injuries caused by violence. This equates to an estimated 2.1 million visits in total across all EDs in the two countries.

Higher alcohol prices and the effect on ED admissions

After taking account of poverty, household incomes, youth spending power and time of year, data analysis showed that lower on-trade and off-trade alcohol prices were associated with higher numbers of violence-related attendances at EDs. 

The researchers calculated that an estimated rise in on-trade alcohol prices of 1% above inflation could cut the annual number of violence-related ED visits by 4,260. The equivalent increase in off-trade alcohol prices could mean 1,788 fewer annual attendances, adding up to about 6,000 fewer visits in total.

‘The additional tax revenue gained, estimated at close to £1 billion a year, could be used to offset the cost of alcohol-related harm to the NHS,’ the researchers said. 

Page N et al (2016) Preventing violence-related injuries in England and Wales: a panel study examining the impact of on-trade and off-trade alcohol prices. Injury Prevention. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2015-041884

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