A minimum per-unit price for alcohol, mooted by the UK government to combat problem drinking, was subsequently dropped in July 2013, despite evidence that such a strategy would effectively cut consumption amongst heavier users of alcohol. But what is the evidence that approaches like this work?
According to a recent report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the stance taken by the UK government not to introduce a minimum price tag per unit suggests that ministers were "under the influence" of industry insiders, who lobbied against the introduction of such a levy.
However, the case for a 50 pence-per-unit tariff (up from the present 39p), looks compelling, as this commentary, by Southhampton hepatologist Nick Sherin, and Kate Eisenstein, policy adviser at the Royal College of Physicians, outlines:
"The mean weekly alcohol consumption of patients with alcoholic cirrhosis is around 15 bottles of white wine or 5 bottles of vodka, 20 litres of super strong lager, or 20 litres of strong white cider brewed from fructose syrup. As a result, irrespective of income, these very heavy drinkers opt for the cheapest possible alcohol—currently around 30 pence (€0.36; $0.49) per unit. The average low risk drinker already pays around £1/unit of alcohol and so the impact of minimum unit pricing on low risk drinkers is negligible, and on pubs it is zero. A minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol would mean that a 700 ml bottle of vodka with a typical alcohol content of 40% would cost at least £14, making it difficult for the heaviest drinkers to maintain their alcohol consumption without substantially increasing their expenditure.
As the commentators highlight, the impact on the pockets of such a measure would be minimal for more discerning, moderate drinkers and pub-goers, who already pay a higher price than the proposed minimum.
They do not, however, dwell on what steps retailers might take to compensate for any loss of revenue incurred through sales reductions. Loading these costs onto higher-priced or more premium beverages could see more reserved drinkers paying more in the longer term.
But since it appears I'm already paying £9 towards the nation's heavy-drinking habits, what's a few quid more?
I will say that the impacts of high alcohol consumption go far beyond mortality. The negative social impacts for both binge drinkers, and chronic high drinkers can be extreme.
It seems morally questionable to raise taxes to discourage use but then put that money into a general fund. The government is making money from a destructive form of behavior. Some or all of the tax increase should go directly to helping people change their behavior if they want to, scientific research about methods that help people accomplish that, as well as the medical system that has to deal with the associated morbidity. Otherwise it's hypocrisy. Just my opinion. cheryl j, Tue, 14th Jan 2014
Report was bad science logic, I'll post why on the article page. stewgreen, Sat, 18th Jan 2014
(I say Ban alcohol selling 1 day/week to break cycle)
And then more non-science, when Chris comes over all conspiracy theory "the law was dropped, due to alcohol corp pressure"
Did you actually look at the report
Someone complained in the UK parliament that supermarkets were selling beer cheaper than bottled water. Cries of "hear, hear" and general mutterings of shock horror something must be done. Now since beer is made from very pure water plus a whole load of other stuff and a lot of time and energy, the scientific conclusion must be that the water industry is ripping off the customers. But did anyone leap to the barricades on behalf of the gullible teetotaller? Not a bit.
- NS show is a science show, so give us the science.
I think the scientific/medical evidence is relatively clear: excess alcohol intake over the long term leads to cirrhosis of the liver, dietary and neurological problems; excess intake over the short term leads to increased road accidents and violent incidents.
But what constitutes a brewing kit? Will there be a tax on bakers' yeast?
Aha, I think I have put my finger on what bothers me.
I noticed in the video that there was a nominal price put on "fun".
I just watched the rest of the Jamie Whyte "Quack Policy" video... A few comments (paraphrased from notes):
The challenge for government when proposing a tax on an industry is that this industry will campaign against the tax - trying to get voters and politicians to vote it down. And such campaigning is entirely justifiable as a tax deduction, since the industry is protecting future profits.
Utter confusion reigns. There's a huge difference between making and selling a pleasant beverage, and being inebriated. Society should penalise anyone who harms or inconveniences a third party, and to do so when under the influence of any intoxicant must be classed as "intentional".
The first results have been collated on Sydney's measures to curb problem drinking: a 30% reduction in ambulance callouts due to alcohol-fueled violence.