It’s still a bloody stupid plan

Introducing minimum pricing for alcohol would lead to 860 fewer deaths a year and 29,900 fewer hospital admissions among heavy-drinkers while having only a slight effect on moderate drinkers, according to research into the policy’s impact.

The study, from Sheffield University, predicts that making stronger drinks more expensive, through a price of 45p per unit of alcohol, would impact those who drink most heavily and are on low incomes. They would reduce their drinking and reap a health benefit, with fewer alcohol-related deaths and illness.

It’s illegal under EU law which makes it a rather quixotic fight that they’re having here. And it’s also incredibly stupid. Why do they want to protect the profit margins of the people who make and retail low value booze?

If you want booze to be more expensive, and I agree that doing so would cut consumption, then tax it more, don’t insist that there’s no price competition going on.

Just why is it that these tossers are being so stupid?

29 comments on “It’s still a bloody stupid plan

  1. They’re not being stupid Tim, just evil. They don’t want booze ‘in general’ to be more expensive. They want to drive cheap vodka and cider out of the market while not affecting the price of their favourite Argentinian wine and craft beer. It’s class warfare, pure and simple.

  2. So basically they are assuming that those who have a dependency problem are going to be the most price-sensitive …

  3. So is this anything more than the usual ‘modelling our assumptions, we find our prejudices are confirmed’? Still, it’s OK, because it will only impact on poor people, and who cares about them anyway? Bastards.

  4. If you want booze to be more expensive, and I agree that doing so would cut consumption, then tax it more.

    If we’re targeting low income heavy drinkers here that may not be the result you get.

    You might, perversely, have an inverted demand curve in this group whereby the more expensive booze gets, the less money is available for other stuff. Consequently life gets more problematic and more booze is needed to cope with it.

  5. Yep, class warfare, dressed up in caring and progressive clothng.
    I see they are also using the doublethink of claiming that the heaviest drinkers will reduce consumption the most, patently obvious bollocks.

  6. Touched on this subject before but, having encouraged mass immigration from E.Europe, there’s now large numbers looking for lucrative employment. And in places like Poland.& now Romania & Bulgaria, cooking up home distilled hooch is part of the culture. (Similar to the bottles of pochean materialise anywhere there’s Irish) If you wanted to encourage the illicit production & distribution of firewater, you couldn’t find a better way of doing it. If they think they’ve got problems with White Lightning wait for the overproof vodka to hit the streets.
    The story’s going to be the same as tobacco products. Anyone on the estates knows how to get smuggled fags & rolling tobacco. Smuggling of the latter supplies a large proportion of the UK consumption. Provide the incentive & stand back & watch.
    And once you’ve got the product hitting the marketplace competition amongst produces will soon lower the price below legitimate cheap booze. There’s a guy I know in SW France, distills “prune” in large quantities for the locals. Small amount with the family’s traditional permit. Rest illicitly. You could run a car on the stuff. He’s competing against supermarket cognac & 6€/bottle & wine at 1€ liter
    Bloody fools. .

  7. “This is what you get when you live in a country run by suffragettes”

    Even titles (and dickless) ones like Camoron.

  8. Even titles (and dickless) ones like Camoron.

    I am, possibly incorrectly, assuming you meant “tit-less” and were auto-incorrected. But Cameron has tits. Plenty of them.

    Clegg, Davey, Cable, Alexander and May. Many more where those came from too.

  9. Speaking as a homebrewer myself, it’s ridiculously easy to do.
    Forty quids worth of equipment will get you going, and with practise you can be knocking the stuff out at 0.50p a litre.
    The trick is having the patience to not drink it all before it’s ready…..

  10. I am, possibly incorrectly, assuming you meant “tit-less” and were auto-incorrected.

    No, that’s that thing he’s married to. If she has a cough he says, “you look a little horse”, and she says, “don’t you mean ‘sound’, David?” and he says, “nayyyyyy….”.

  11. @UK Lib
    It’s always been in the Brit culture. But distilling hasn’t. And it’s a volume thing. Even brewing for oneself needs a lot of space, time & equipment. A clandestine micro brewery involves a lot of suspicious smells, masses of bottles & bulky deliveries. For premises you’re really looking at similar problems to clandestine marijuana growing. And look how successful that is.
    Fermenting from a low odour base stock like sugar, grain etc then distilling the product, you could make real money working out of a small bedroom. And the retailed items are just apparent mineral water bottles. The alcohol component’s about 10X.
    Almost tempting to get into the business 🙂

  12. None of the above will happen, because the Model said so.

    All hail the Model. Death to the enemies of the Model!

  13. playing devil’s advocate, but isn’t there something whereby the quality of your poison is more damaging than the amount? I seem to remember some report into heroin addiction where they found that as long as you could afford nice pure stuff you were pretty much fine, it was people buying nasty shite cut with brick dust who had issues. Obviously that’s poor people, but that’s not the ideological point, just an unfortunate side effect.

    So maybe rotgut bathtub vodka really does cause more of a problem than nice argentinian malbec?

    QV UKLib / BIS

    I was always under the impression that what killed home brewing was partly* that high st shops stopped selling the useful stuff (Boots used to have a whole range, including hydrometers, campden tabs, the lot). Now you can get it all online. I used to do it in the 90s, and was thinking of getting back into it. My brother does and turns out some fearsome brews that taste amazing. Though as BIS says, it’s a hobbyist thing, not a viable business.

    *although I’m sure rising incomes helped. It’s a lot of faff for most people if the only variable they’re looking at is price.

  14. There has been at least one explosion at an illegal distillery in the past few years in the UK. There have been several stories about ‘counterfeit alcohol’ (including ‘vodka’ made from isopropanol recently) in the news with Trading Standards officers quoted as claiming it’s “a growing problem”.

    The Iron law of prohibition springs to mind. I would include high prices in prohibition for the sake of this argument.

  15. My Dad homebrewed for years, and very palatable it was, too. He started during the Wilson Terror and carried on into his declining years. If you can hold off necking the first batch then you can fill the pipeline and allow it to mature for six weeks or so.

    As for Eastern European hooch, a Bulgarian friend brought me back some plum brandy his uncle had cooked up in his shed. I have no idea what its ABV was, but he reckoned about 75-80%. You could feel it dehydrating your mucous membranes as it went down.

    As dependency becomes more severe, alcohol becomes more price-inelastic. So perversely raising the price only affects the consumption of people who don’t have the most severe problems.

  16. Do they even do Cost Benefit Analysis in public policy formulation in the UK. According to some semi-reliable figures that I found in about 2 minutes on Google, the NHS has about 125 million admissions per year. In addition the NHS kills about 40,000 people each year through adverse events (you know where you go to hospital a little sick and come out dead thanks to their fuck up).

    So this plan will reduce the total number of hospital admissions 0.02% and you could easily net out the death figure by killing a few less reasonably well people.

    How much will it cost to introduce minimum alcohol pricing. It will certainly cost the government many millions to introduce the legislation and then police and enforce it. The cost to the consumer will be far more significant with people who drink a couple of cans of beer per day seeing the cost of their tipple tripple.

    Anyone looking at this rationally would say, its too bloody expensive and in a country of 65 million 800 – 1000 deaths per year is nothing.

    The numbers are nothing like those which apply in the tobacco industry that’s for sure

  17. I seem to remember some report into heroin addiction where they found that as long as you could afford nice pure stuff you were pretty much fine, it was people buying nasty shite cut with brick dust who had issues.

    With pure heroin and clean needles you risk dependence and constipation. With impure heroin and/or dirty needles you risk the aforementioned and all kinds of shit: disease, infections, abscesses, endocarditis, poisoning. And risk of overdose if you don’t know the purity.

    It was reportedly the Russian crackdown on heroin that led to the development of desomorphine aka krokodil, synthesised from relatively easy to obtain codeine. It causes a similar high to heroin but over a shorter period. The impure stuff (impurities might include gasoline, paint thinner and hydrochloric acid) is notorious for causing severe tissue damage (making the skin look like a crocodile’s), phlebitis and gangrene, sometimes resulting in the need for amputation. Then of course there are the usual risks associated with needles and injecting dodgy chemicals into one’s body (outlined above for heroin).

    Likewise, increased heroin use resulted from making opium illegal.

    Prohibition creates incentives to increase the potency.of the product or its substitutes (beer->wine->spirits, cocaine->crystal meth, opium->heroin->krokodil). As well as the risks associated with those products in themselves, there are also risks associated with the unregulated and clandestine nature of their production and trade (distillery explosions, dirty needles, impure product, huge amounts of money causing crime and corruption).

    Incidentally it was Sheffield Trading Standards finding double the quantity of counterfeit alcohol this year than last year, which in turn was double what they found in the previous year. Their advice is “don’t buy it if it looks too cheap.”

  18. “How much will it cost to introduce minimum alcohol pricing.”
    Net?
    There’ll be the increased tax take on the more expensive alcohol. Providing the measure to reduce alcohol consumption does not reduce alcohol consumption. So entirely possible, negative.
    And why do i have this nagging cynical suspicion……?

  19. Cost benefit analysis? Don’t be daft. The whole point of our lobbyist driven policy making is that the benefit is to the politician and those calling for ‘something to be done’ and the cost is borne by the magic money tree….

  20. @UKL

    I assume that one of the main problems with all illegal commodity trades (well, all commodities full stop) is logistics, so small package + increased potency will always be a winner. Of course the other main effect of prohibition is to raise the risk and therefore the price and therefore the profit. Oh, and there’s greater profits to be made in adulteration (not to mention no legal mechanism of quality control).

    Essentially, if you want to ensure that something relatively benign becomes dangerous and people start killing each other over it, make it illegal.

    I genuinely can’t understand why otherwise intelligent people are in favour of prohibition of drugs. As far as I can see you have to believe that intoxication is at some level morally wrong to think that there is even a moral justification, and even then I submit that it should be overruled by the utilitarian and pragmatic benefits of decriminalisation. Prohibition has been a terrible century long experiment, and all the evidence demonstrates that it is at best criminally misguided, at worst downright evil.

    And another thing; the old-school conservatives of this world – the Peter Hitchenses and the like – rarely manage to explain how the Victorian society they venerate was capable of being built on a tide of opium and cocaine, but it should be banned now.

  21. @sam
    it’s long been my opinion drugs are as much of an etiquette problem as anything else.
    All in all, despite hand wringing like the current, people handle alcohol fairly sensibly. There’s a whole societal etiquette about appropriate levels of intoxication from zero to off your face, stag party paralytic. It’s just the odd piss head who rocks the boat.
    There’s no reason a drug etiquette couldn’t arise , given the chance. Has to a large extent. The unnoticed, unremarked drug consumption amongst now 3 generations of industrious, law abiding, productive, stoners you interact with every day tends to prove it.

  22. @BIS

    Think you’re absolutely in the right of it there. The barriers that I can see to such an etiquette being created, however, are

    – decades of scaremongering reinforcing the message that there is no such thing as ‘responsible’ drug consumption (and exaggerating the dangers of toxicity, addiction, etc); and

    – the aforementioned potency problem. it’s much easier to regulate consumption of beer than, say, cocktails, because a) the comparatively lower ABV in most cases and b) a far greater level of exactitude over what the ABV is.

  23. sam
    That second point is the etiquette thing. Amusingly, my suspicions about the outcome of minimum pricing may spoil the alcohol one. With booze you have a range of product & you know where you are. Appropriate drinks & quantities for appropriate times. Start getting 80ABV rocket fuel on the streets destabilises the whole thing. How much OJ to cut it with is an unknown. Same as; how strong’s the weed & how much tobacco to roll in.

  24. sam,

    I genuinely can’t understand why otherwise intelligent people are in favour of prohibition of drugs. As far as I can see you have to believe that intoxication is at some level morally wrong to think that there is even a moral justification, and even then I submit that it should be overruled by the utilitarian and pragmatic benefits of decriminalisation. Prohibition has been a terrible century long experiment, and all the evidence demonstrates that it is at best criminally misguided, at worst downright evil.

    American alcohol prohibitionists convinced themselves that actually it was the moral proposal that would result in the greatest utility. They linked lots of problems to alcohol and said the American economy would be better off if alcohol were banned. Inevitably, when it didn’t work and caused more problems, “well, those problems wouldn’t occur if prohibition were properly enforced”.

    There is some interesting history in this booklet, the Economics of Prohibition by Mark Thornton.
    http://library.mises.org/books/Mark%20Thornton/Economics%20of%20Prohibition.pdf

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