Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Pathetic minimum pricing propaganda

Over the weekend I was struck by this peculiar headline:

Harmful drinkers would be affected 200 times more than low risk drinkers if a Minimum Unit Price was introduced

What on earth does that mean? Affected how?

Alas, the press release doesn't explain, although it does include a quote from arch-minimum price campaigner Nick Sheron:

"Our research shows that an MUP set at 50p per unit would affect the liver patients killing themselves with cheap alcohol 200 times more than low risk drinkers."

Still puzzled, I went to look at the study in question (of which Sheron is the lead author) and found that being "affected" 200 times actually means that very heavy drinkers will have to pay 200 times more than very light drinkers.

We found that an MUP of 50p/unit impacted most severely on harmful heavy drinkers, who, on average, would have to pay an additional £1,500/year, or 13% of their income, compared with £4/year, or 0.03% of income, for low-risk drinkers.

Jeez, kick 'em while they're down, won't you Sheron? It appears that taking money from alcoholics is now considered to be its own reward in the warped world of pretend public health.

Note that this 'study' makes no attempt to estimate the extent to which 'harmful heavy drinkers' will reduce their alcohol intake as a result of this regressive policy. It is no more than a back of the envelope calculation that anyone could do given the quantity of alcohol purchased by each group and the average price paid.

It's not even a very good back-of-the-envelope calculation. Sheron has borrowed a trick from the Sheffield mob by using an extremely stingy definition of a moderate drinker. In this study, a 'low-risk' drinker is someone who consumes just six units a week (that's a little over two pints of lager) and who spends £1.10 per unit (ie. buys all their alcohol in a pub). As a result of this massively unrealistic definition, Sheron says in the press release that minimum pricing "leaves moderate drinkers completely unaffected." The man is a shameless knave.

It is quite obvious that minimum pricing will penalise those who (a) buy cheap alcohol and (b) buy lots of alcohol. Clearly, it will "affect" (read: "rob") them more than it will "affect" (read: "rob") people who (a) buy expensive alcohol and (b) buy hardly any alcohol. It is sad, but typical, of a medical journal to publish such an inane, policy-driven article and equally sad and typical that it was promoted with a meaningless and crumby press release.

The ever-excellent Tim Worstall has more on this pitiful rubbish.



1 comment:

JD said...

The press release says that MUP is
'exquisitely targeted towards the heaviest drinkers with cirrhosis'.

This is an interesting definition of targeted - or maybe just illiterate BS.

I also note that the 'light drinkers' are said to pay £1.10 per unit on average. Quite hard to find such expensive alcohol in supermarkets. They must all drink crus classes, champagne, fine cognac and malt whisky. Or drink mainly in pubs of course. Or perhaps this is just innumerate BS.