Monday, 22 August 2016

That Canadian minimum pricing claim

From the Journal (Ireland), a pleasing rarity - a journalist who knows how to assess evidence. It all started with a clueless/lying politician...

"Minimum unit pricing has been proven to work, in British Columbia in Canada, for example. When they introduced it, they found, when they did the research that there were less deaths from…drinking, and there were less hospital admissions."

This is one of the most audacious lies I've ever come across in 'public health' and that is not a claim I make lightly. It started life in a ludicrous study from that old crank Tim Stockwell and has been repeated ad nauseum ever since.

The statement that alcohol-related deaths dropped by 32 per cent in British Colombia between 2002 and 2009 seems like a normative claim. It's not. There was never any drop in deaths and so Stockwell created a model that pretended there were. This is what 'public health' people do. They create a land of fantasy for themselves where their ridiculous policies work.

I have written about this farce of a study before, but the Journal has the most comprehensive take yet. Do read the whole thing, but here's a taster...

The first thing to note is that the number of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions generally went up in British Columbia during the period of 2002 to 2009.

As you can see, there were only two occasions when the number of deaths was lower than the year before, and the number of hospital admissions rose every year.

...It is doubly wrong to say that this happened “when they introduced [MUP]“. As we’ve explained, this study relates to increases in already-existing minimum prices.

...Remember that the study uses complex statistical models to estimate an association between a 1% increase in minimum prices, and a percent change in the number of deaths.

It’s not saying that prices actually went up by 1%, and these were the actual, observed ensuing increases and decreases in deaths.

If that’s a bit confusing, welcome to the world of statistical models.

It certainly is a bit confusing when 'public health' campaigners make up historical facts to suit their agenda, but it is hardly the first time. Models have their place in making predictions but using a model instead of using readily available data about a past event is, well, cheating.

Read it all here. There is also a pretty good overview of the sugar tax evidence from the same people here.

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