Friday 17 February 2012

Minimum pricing: what to expect

The ChaMPs Public Health Network—founded in 2003, entirely state-funded and involved in the dodgy website—is one of several arms of government working to impose minimum pricing on the public.

You will be hearing a lot of cant and nonsense about this scheme in the next few months as the Department of Health/British Medical Association PR machine turns up the throttle. The tone of the discussion can be gauged from a meeting hosted by ChaMPs in 2010 when the usual lies were presented as facts. For example, they said that the price of alcohol has fallen in real terms since 1980. In fact, alcohol has risen by 20% in real terms. Either they don't know what 'real terms' means, or they are willfully misleading the public.

No, it's not.

The interesting thing about this meeting is that the attendees were quite aware of all the drawbacks of minimum pricing. They worried that the policy...

Could stimulate adverse publicity. Alcohol is still socially acceptable.

Yes, "still". But not if they get their way, because the anti-smoking blueprint of denormalisation remains their template...

Help culture change and cover the whole population (like the tobacco agenda)

Need to find ways of making alcohol less socially acceptable and seen as a public problem. (Lessons learned from Smoke Free).

It's interesting to note that, in contrast to absurd claims that minimum pricing will "save nearly 10,000 lives a year", this meeting found that...

Evidence of a positive impact would be hard to find as alcohol has such a long term impact on health.

Several of the criticisms of minimum pricing made on this blog and elsewhere over the last two years also feature...

Would there be a risk that harmful drinkers move on to replacement risky behaviours? They many neglect buying healthy food in preference to alcohol for example. Could increase the gap in health inequalities

Is there risk it will encourage more people to experiment with home brewing?

Legislation in itself will not impact on attitudes of high level drinkers and doesn’t tackle the reasons why people drink.

They were also worried that their cost estimates, though vastly inflated, did not appear big enough.

Cost benefits quoted don’t sound very impressive (12.9 billion over 10 years saved against 20 billion per year cost). 

Their answer to this problem acts as a golden rule for the whole campaign.

We need to be careful which statistics and messages we are using if we are to convince and not undermine.

And I'm sure you will.


dearieme said...

"alcohol has such a long term impact on health": slithery bastards.

Jonathan Bagley said...

"Is there risk it will encourage more people to experiment with home brewing?"

Buying home winemaking equipment is as easy as buying books from Amazon. Spend around £80 on equipment and then make decent wine for £1.20 a bottle. If you've been thrown on the scraphead at 60, your pension's gone down the pan, you feel you owe nothing to society and you've got energy to spare, why not spend two hours a week making 60 bottles of wine and selling them each at a £2 profit to your neighbours?

What will happen with spirits doesn't bear thinking about. 50 pence a unit equates to £14 for a bottle of vodka. What else costs £14 to buy in the shops and costs only £2 to make, but which is widely available for £8.50 in the UK? Yes, Golden Virginia. And the difference is that you can't grow and cure tobacco in a Nottingham industrial unit.

Anonymous said...

Johnathan that's illegal, whatever became of good old fashioned barter?

Homemade spirits are not just illegal but frighteningly dangerous.

The pensioner would just have to be satisfied with a high alcohol tolerance yeast from his local homebrew shop.

It used to be a hobby of mine.


Anonymous said...

Home produced spirits, or hjembrent as they are known here in Norway are killers. Home produced alcohol was and still is made in rural Norway, the result of swingeing taxes and denormalisation. Every year people die or end up in hospital with liver failure due to home production, but the lessons are never learned and as the saying goes, the beat goes on. High prices due to punishing tax levels, limited availability and widespread public diaapproval have not stopped Norwegians from drinking, it hasn't stopped Finns from drinking, it hasn't stopped Swedes from drinking. In fact Scandinavia is a living laboratory for the results of back door prohibition. Drunks reeling around. puking and fighting in town centres every Friday and Saturday night, otherwise respectable people getting arrested for public disorder left, right and centre and terrifying numbers of deaths from liver failure. In this instance the Scandinavian model is a great example of what not to do. Way to go Britain.

Jonathan Bagley said...

Yes, I know selling home made wine is illegal. I was pointing out the inevitable consequence of raising the price of a bottle of wine from £3.39 to £4.50 in these hard times. Coicidentally, I too had thought of bartering, which is not illegal. An hour of someone clearing my garden in exchange for three bottles of wine is an attractive proposition. Perhaps the "bot" could serve as a local unit of currency?

Anonymous said...

I think the "bot" would make an excellent local unit of currency.

I did realise that you were talking about yet more of those "unforeseen consequences" that seemingly everyone except the miserabilists can foresee with ease.

But it also struck me as an opportunity for people who enjoy a drink to say a firm and immediate no.
No one else should have to put up with the incremental liberties taken with people who smoke, everyone thinking that each one must surely be the last.

Anyway the genuine "binge drinkers" they say that they are aiming at probably wouldn't have the patience.


Ivan D said...

It would appear that our PM has fallen for this crap hook line and sinker. Hardly a week goes by without him spouting some nonsense about alcohol. A typically excellent article from Nigel Hawkes over at Straight Statistics explains how he got the alleged cost of alcohol to the NHS wrong.

It seems that the NHS finally owned up to being somewhat dishonest about hospital admissions allegedly caused by alcohol. They reduced that figure to about 20% of the wildly exaggerated original but Dave quoted a cost based on the old admission figures making him out by only a billion or so.

The MSM is strangely silent about both Dave’s error and the downward revision of the admissions.

Anonymous said...

Not sure when the massive prices/state regulation started in the Scandinavian countries. However, I do recall my father-in-law, who sailed on whaling ships in the 1950s saying the "Norskies" were the worst drinkers. They used to distill some kind of hooch out of boot polish and get completely off their faces. The British seamen were usually happy with a couple of bottles of beer with their dinner although they would let their hair down, shall we say, on a run ashore.

dearieme said...

Elderberry and bramble both yield palatable home-made wine. You used to be able to buy tins of grape juice at Boots that were also OK.
It's a pleasant hobby but be warned that the yeast gets everywhere: we even found pickled gerkhins in the fridge fermenting.

Anonymous said...

Hell,I use to make whiskey in the field on maneuvers using two piss pot helmets and my worm coil.

Just remember anything can be fermented even old fruit juice and tater peelings! Its easy to make homebrew.


Anonymous said...

I'd urge the poster from Norway to put that in a letter to the editor of any UK paper that talks about this bad prohibitionist proposal. We shouldn't just be talking to ourselves.

As for this: "Evidence of a positive impact would be hard to find as alcohol has such a long term impact on health." well, hell, it also takes something close to 40 years for active smoking to have its (alleged) impact, but I'm sure they'll figure out how to follow the formula of the "heart miracles" and come up with something juicy.

Nor have they even touched on "secondhand booze." Wherein they might find a dramatic decline in broken noses from drunken fistfights, or traffic accidents, or cirrhosis fatalities from having been passingly breathed on by drinkers. They have not yet (seriously) begun to fight.


Anonymous said...

I use a yeast lifted off the apples from my garden in one part honey to three parts water.

You can keep a good strain going for years, but it does need to be fed occasionally,a bit of yeast nutrient,pinch of cracked wheat or I suppose even the seeds out of a bag of granary flour, some people allegedly use a bit of toast!

I've never managed to accidentally ferment gherkins though and I'm trying not to think about Harley's concoction.

"traces of a fermented beverage made with heather flowers have been found by archaeologists dating back to 2,000 BC on the Isle of Rhum. Archaeologists there discovered a Neolithic shard containing traces of a fermented beverage made with heather flowers"

What was that about denormalising alcohol?


nisakiman said...

It's a tradition in Greece to make your own wine.

Many families (and restaurants) buy a tonne or so of grapes when the trucks appear in September. The trucks bring various varieties of grape (Mucadet, Mosxofilero, [white], Cabernet, Ksinomavro and Agiorgitiko [red] are the most common) from the growing areas and park up by the side of the road with their wares.

The resultant "country wine" can be pretty good. (It can also be pretty bad! Depends on how much care and experience goes into it.)

Not so common now, but still to be found is the home distillation of Tsipouro, traditionally made from the grape skins left from the wine making process. It is a clear, fiery spirit, about 45%, and is normally served chilled in shot glasses, but can also be served hot, sometimes with honey.

Home brewing is alive and well in Greece!