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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Minimum pricing and the drinking culture

I was going to going to have a rant this morning on the Chief Medical Officer's latest outpourings on the minimum pricing of alcohol but note that I already did so not so long ago.

Dr Tony Jewell is all over the Welsh media today backing Health Minister Edwina Hart's call for the assembly government to have powers over alcohol licensing. He says too many people in Wales still drank too much and he is right. However, his assertion that one of the most effective things we can do to control alcohol abuse is to increase pricing is not backed up by any evidence.

The fact that prices have fallen since 1980 may well be true but that does not mean that there is a link between that and binge drinking. The abuse of alcohol, mostly by young people on certain nights of the week has been with us long before then and can be better attributed to cultural and economic factors rather than a straight supply and demand calculation.

By all means ask for the licensing powers for Wales but if you are going to use them to legislate in this direction then I think we need to have more evidence than simple assertion.

As I said in January, this sort of nanny-statism does not work and amounts to the adoption of easy solutions to make it look like government is doing something, instead of making hard choices and tackling the real underlying social problems.
On my visits to Dublin over the last 15 years it has been interesting to see the change in what is drunk and its effect on behaviour. I assert that few people will be inclined to cause trouble after 8 pints of Guinness which the most common drink in Ireland 15 years ago. Now "wife beating" lager is a far more common choice and with it comes much of the collateral damage.

I would like to understand more about what is in Stella et al. which appears to have a causal link to the observer and why they appear to trigger such unfortunate behaviour change.

Of course it could just be as simple as the type of people who choose "the black stuff" have more rounded personalities and don't consider knocking 7 bells out a kebab house owner mandatory for a good night out.

Tax free Stout as a policy ?
Good thing in Wales would be to try a prohibition for 12 months, me and Blacky will enforce
thing is you gotta watch guys on the guinness as they can punch straight and there chin is not hanging up in the air so much, guys on stella as any SOB manning the doors will tell you, fling there punchs like clowns
Not sure about the alleged lack of evidence, Peter. A substantial body of evidence shows that alcohol sales respond to price changes like most consumer goods in the market: an increase in the price of alcohol generally leads to a decrease in consumption, and vice versa.
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