The minimum alcohol price consultation is a disgrace
There is one important, brazen lie which needs exposing.
Paragraph vii of the main consultation paper makes this new claim about the effectiveness of minimum pricing, based on a very recent research report:
There is extensive and consistent evidence that increasing the price of alcohol reduces consumption, leading to reductions in alcohol-related harms particularly around health. For instance, recent analysis of the effectiveness of ‘social reference pricing’ in a Canadian province found that a 10% increase in the minimum price of any given alcoholic product reduced its consumption by between 14.6% and 16.1%. This supports the Government’s intentions, as set out in the Strategy, to end the availability of the most irresponsibly priced alcohol, by introducing a minimum unit price, and to consult on the introduction of a ban of multi-buy promotions in the off-trade (my emphasis)
A 10% increase in minimum price producing a 14.6% to 16.1% dexrease in consumption sounds impressive, which is why it is singled out for mention. But such a message, which the government clearly intends to give, is simply not true.
The Canadian analysis referred to is Stockwell, T., Christopher Auld, M., Zhao, J. and Martin, J. (2012) Does minimum pricing reduce consumption? The experience of a Canadian province. (2012) Addiction. Volume 107. Pages 912-920. (This article is only available via university libraries etc.. I have access so if people really want to see it let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.). What the article actually says is:
[T]he estimates indicate that a 10% increase in the minimum price of a given type of beverage reduced consumption of that type by about 16.1% relative to all other beverages, and a simultaneous 10% increase in the minimum prices of all types reduced total consumption by 3.4% (P < 0.01 in both cases). The first estimate may overestimate minimum price effects because it incorporates compensatory increases in consumption of all other beverages. The estimate of the effect of across-the-board changes in minimum prices on total consumption will be biased to the extent that the extra structure we imposed on the model is unrealistic (p. 917, my emphasis).
This is very different. In plain English it means that people tend to buy cheaper booze when minimum prices for a particular booze type go up, but that overall there might be a small reduction in overall consumption as a result of price increases overall, although the modelling used can’t really prove that.
To leave out the “across the board changes” in favour of the impressive sounding 14.6 to 16.1% (the 14.6% comes from another way of modelling the same data) is simply disgraceful, and provides evidence that the government is simply not interested in the science, so obsessed is it with bashing the poor.