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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Has minimum alcohol pricing as a solution been over-hyped?

The Welsh Government has published its plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol today with some interesting claims.

As the BBC report, Ministers believe that the suggested charge of 50p per unit will save nearly £900m over 20 years by cutting crime and illness, with 50 fewer deaths a year. They say that they are committed to using their powers to "improve and protect" the health of people in Wales.

All this of course is predicated on the premise that you can effectively price problem-drinkers out of the market. That, by putting up the price of alcohol, those who are dependent on it will drink less. It is that assumption which I question as I still have not seen any evidence to support it.

Does the use of minimum pricing also send another message: that the Welsh Government believe that drinking is only a problem when it is the poor who do it?

It is certainly the case that those with limited incomes will not be able to afford to drink as much. Those who have more money will carry on regardless, whilst people dependent on alcohol will find ways to get hold of it as they always have done.

I am not saying we should not try, just that I want to see the evidence for the claims made by this measure, and not just academic studies but where it has actually worked. Until that is available I am not going to vote for it.
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