Wednesday 14 August 2013

The facts spoil the minimum pricing party again

A lot has been written about the glorious success of minimum pricing in British Columbia this year, such as this from The Guardian.

Canada is proof that state-controlled drinking is good for health

After studying eight years of data from British Columbia, detailing price rises, alcohol intake and negative health outcomes from drinking, Stockwell and Thomas concluded that "a 10% increase in average minimum prices across all beverage types would result in a 3.4% decrease in total alcohol consumption.

... Stockwell stresses that Canada's policy does cut consumption, and alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions. " 

 And this from the BBC.

Dr Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, said: "This study adds to the scientific evidence that, despite popular opinion to the contrary, even the heaviest drinkers reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase."

And the Institute of Alcohol Studies...

Minimum pricing works in Canada

The minimum prices set by the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch have helped curb drinking in the province

The trouble is that the pesky facts keep getting in the way. At the weekend, Tim Stockwell's Centre for Addictions Research released a report (PDF) that called for all manner of temperance policies to be implemented, such as minimum pricing for pubs. I hope the quisling faction of Britain's hospitality industry are taking note.

But the report also contained some facts, such as...

Alcohol consumption in BC has been above the Canadian average for the last decade. 

Not a great start. Moreover...

The rates of hospitalizations in BC for conditions related to alcohol have shown a significant increase since 2002...

That's not what I heard. Surely the temperance lobby hasn't misled us?

...reflecting an overall increase in alcohol consumption in the province

Again, this is contrary to what we have been led to believe by The Guardian et al., but there is a graph to prove it...

Although they don't show the data for alcohol-related deaths (which you can see in a previous post), what they do show does not suggest that minimum pricing has "helped curb drinking", or has "cut consumption" or has reduced hospital admissions. Quite the reverse.

Perhaps minimum pricing has been a wonderful success on some computer model tucked away in Stockwell's office, but real world evidence once again confounds the conjurors of public health.

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