A report assessing white ciders and the impact on homeless drinkers has called for action to stop irresponsible profiteering from the high-alcohol low-cost drinks. 'White Ciders and street drinkers' was released by Alcohol Concern with backing from homeless charities St Mungo's and Thames Reach.
The report states the drinks industry uses manufactured apple concentrate whilst benefiting from the tax breaks and low duty intended to boost the development of traditional craft cider production. Although recent changes means ciders must now contain a minimum 35% juice content, apple content is now being cheaply imported from Eastern Europe for white cider production. The report states this allows the industry to profit from a potent 7.5% ABV drink that is one of the cheapest ways to buy alcohol. Street drinkers interviewed on the effects of white cider reported extreme conditions ranging from panic attacks to vomiting blood.
The report's author, Tony Goodall, said "This research has allowed me to see some of the devastation that is caused by white cider, but also to understand that it is not easy to solve the problem." He urged more action from both the Government and the industry including further consideration of minimum pricing. Recommendations from the report include:
- To considerably increase tax on ciders above 5% in a bid to get manufacturers to decrease the alcohol levels in white ciders.
- To link cider duty rates to beer duty rates, especially super-strength lagers, and to look at minimum unit pricing.
- For the Licensing Act 2003 to be amended to include the protection of public health, and so to allow local authorities to ban the sale of super-strength drinks across their locality.
- An end to the practice of selling cider above 5% in two and three litre bottles and one litre cap to be introduced.
The Observer ran a feature 'White cider is becoming like heroin among alcoholics' and has previously reported 'Super-strength alcohol is killing more homeless people than crack or heroin'. See the Alcohol Concern press release.
In 2009 White Lightening was de-listed by its owners Heineken to 'reinforce its stance on responsible drinking', but the report highlighted brands such as White Ace, Carbon White and White Star sell for as little as 59p per can. One cider manufacturer in the report was quoted as saying that alcohol abuse and the white cider market was "a small percentage" which is a "social issue, not an economic issue".