Friday, 5 March 2021

Fantasy modelling and a 70p minimum alcohol price

Is the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group aware that minimum pricing has been in force in Scotland for nearly two years?
Their latest study suggests not. Using their computer model (what else?), they conclude that minimum pricing has more of an effect on men than on women.
For example, a £0.50 MUP led to a 5.3% reduction in consumption and a 4.1% reduction in admissions for men but a 0.7% reduction in consumption and a 1.6% reduction in hospitalisations for women.
The problem here is that it is an indisputable fact that the number of alcohol-related hospitalisations has not fallen since the £0.50 minimum unit price was introduced. There were 35,544 of them in 2017/18 and 35,781 in 2019/20.

If you want to split hairs, there was a minuscule decline in the rate of admissions, from 668.8 per 100,000 people in 2017/18 to 666.6 per 100,000 people in 2019/20, but that is just 0.3%, nowhere near the 3% implied in the new Sheffield study nor the 4% predicted in the model they produced before the policy came into effect.

In the press release, lead author Petra Meier (who is now at Glasgow University) gives further indications that she hasn't heard about the policy being introduced.

“Our modelling suggests that men’s drinking and risk of alcohol-related hospital admissions would decrease substantially more than women’s for both duty increases and minimum unit pricing policies."

But did it, Petra? We have the empirical data now, surely? Judging by the overall admission figures, minimum pricing had an effect on both sexes that could most charitably be described as minimal. 

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the study is that it also modelled the impact of a 70p minimum price. Brace yourself, Scottish drinkers.

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