.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Monday, October 23, 2017

Welsh Government reasserts its nanny state approach on minimum pricing

Astonishingly, and as the BBC report, the Welsh Government is to go ahead with its plans to legislate to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in Wales.

Using a 50p-a-unit formula, it is likely that a typical can of cider would be at least £1 and a bottle of wine at least £4.69. A typical litre of vodka would have to cost more than £20.

Rather than be totally negative about this proposal, I will set out where I agree with the relevant Minister. She believes that tackling excessive drinking could save a life a week and mean 1,400 fewer hospital admissions a year.

Research has shown that while alcohol consumption levels have been falling in recent years, there are concerns amongst health officials that binge drinking is still a problem with young people, and there is also an issue with the over-50s. That research found that there were 463 alcohol-related deaths in Wales in 2015-16 and 54,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions.

I have no reason to doubt the claim that by tackling binge drinking we can save the NHS £6.5m a year by reducing the impact on hospitals while boosting the Welsh economy by £44m a year by reducing workplace absence and crime.

If we can eliminate that cost and save lives then we should do so, but only if the measures that are proposed are effective. That is where I find the Welsh Government's case wanting.

The research suggests that although high-risk drinkers make up only a quarter of people who drink alcohol, they drink 72% of all alcohol consumed and account for 65% of all spending.

However, where is the evidence that this particular cohort, who are clearly more dependent on alcohol than the average punter, will be influenced by higher prices? Where is the evidence that raising the price of alcohol in supermarkets in particular will impact on the statistics set out above?

As one recovering alcoholic told the BBC: "[hardened drinkers are] going to try to get alcohol by any means necessary and I think it will put more strain on very underprivileged people." The Welsh Retail Consortium has also expressed concern that minimum prices may hit less affluent, moderate consumers of alcohol "whilst not necessarily having the desired impact on problem drinkers".

This measure will penalise poorer people, whilst having little or no impact on the hard core drinkers who are the real problem. It is the nanny state reasserting itself in an evidence-free crackdown that will make them feel better but is unlikely to meet the objectives they have set for it.

To repeat a question I posed over two years ago now, 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.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?