Friday, 30 September 2011

Taxing supermarkets for tobacco and alcohol sales

Via the business rate the Scottish Government announced last week that large shops selling alcohol and tobacco will be charged a levy, to be spent on public health initiatives.

Naturally Sheila Duffy of ASH Scotland has welcomed this announcement, not least since public health initiatives (what she describes as preventative measures) are her business. She spent time last year pleading for spending in the area of prevention to be maintained. Her blog also exalts the recent UN summit on non-communicable diseases and applauds the Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon's stupendous gift of A$700,000 (the amount seems to differ depending where you read it) to the World Health Organisation.

Because tobacco control works and delivers real health benefits, of course.

Cuts are being felt in the anti-smoking business. The charity No Smoking Day will lose its budget from the Department of Health leading to a merger of No Smoking Day with the British Heart Foundation.

Scotland's attempt at a solution, the business levy, has angered businesses, but the SNP's majority makes it a working possibility. Its ambition to raise £110 million over three years for public health initiatives is likely to sour relationships between the Government and the retail sector (possibly many of its customers, since retailers may be forced to raise prices generally), and possibly enrich lawyers.

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