In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

The Ban on Cheap Alcohol

The British government will introduce a price floor for all alcohol products in England and Wales. The scheme proposes that no alcohol should be sold ‘below-cost’, where the ‘cost’ is the alcohol duty plus Valued Added Tax. A 440ml can of 4% ABV lager can only be sold for 41p or more, whilst a 750ml bottle of 12.5% wine has a minimum price of £2.41. These new rules will be activated on the 6th April 2014. According to the BBC, “Officials estimate that 1.3% of sales – 200m litres – will become more expensive and this will lead to an overall drop in consumption of 0.04%.” Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker (Lib Dem, Lewes) said:

The coalition government is determined to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime, which costs England and Wales around £11bn a year. Banning the sale of alcohol below duty plus VAT will stop the worst examples of very cheap and harmful drink.

Despite the determination, the projected savings of £4m in reduced crime are approximately 0.036%. Furthermore, since this proposal will only affect 1.3% of sales, it means that loss-leading alcohol drinks in supermarkets were not a major problem. It is those sellers that will benefit, barred by law from lowering their prices below this limit.

International Evidence

Eric Appleby of Alcohol Concern responded to this proposal: “The government is wasting time when international evidence shows that minimum unit pricing is what we need to save lives and cut crime.” This ‘international evidence’ refers to the minimum pricing law enacted in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC). It has been suggested that “a rise in alcohol prices of 10% would lead to a 32% reduction in alcohol-related deaths”.

Alcohol consumption has been erratically rising in British Columbia. (Photo: University of Victoria)

Alcohol consumption has been erratically rising in British Columbia. (Photo: University of Victoria)

The University of Victoria Centre for Addictions Research of BC was this study’s source.  Their own data shows that the death rate related to alcohol use in BC fell from 26 per 100,000 people in 2002, to 23 per 100,000 people in 2011.

Mortality rates in British Columbia have slowly, but significantly, declined. (Photo: University of Victoria)

Mortality rates in British Columbia have slowly, but significantly, declined. (Photo: University of Victoria)

This is much higher than the British corresponding rate of around 13 per 100,000 people. Alcohol consumption erratically rose over this period, whilst alcohol-related hospitalisations marched upwards. The study’s extrapolation seems unsupported by the original data.

Hospitalisations related to alcohol have inexorably risen. (Photo: University of Victoria)

Hospitalisations related to alcohol have inexorably risen. (Photo: University of Victoria)

Meanwhile, in the Fortress of Scotland…

In Scotland, the taxpayer-funded campaign group Alcohol Focus Scotland has launched a petition, demanding a boycott of companies that oppose minimum unit pricing:

Save 300 Scottish lives a year: end your legal battle against the Scottish people’s decision to set a healthy alcohol price.

Diageo and friends: you are putting your profits before people’s lives. This is bullying, motivated by pure greed and it is costing us dear.

Until you and the other booze barons stop your undemocratic and lethal court challenges, we are mounting a nationwide boycott of your products.

Far from being “undemocratic” or “bullying”, court challenges are an essential part of the democratic process, ensuring governments may not circumvent their restrictions. Whatever Alcohol Focus Scotland believes, the Scottish Executive merely represents the Scottish people – it does not supplant them.

For governments and their intravenous campaign groups, minimum unit pricing remains the goal.

Advertisements

Information

This entry was posted on February 5, 2014 by in National Politics and tagged , , , .
%d bloggers like this: