Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Scottish Parliament Committee To Hear Evidence on Alcohol

Firstly I must thank the commenter on Dick Puddlecote's blog who was good enough to mention the agenda for today's Health and Sport Committee meeting is now online. The subject of the committee meeting is Alcohol etc (Scotland) Bill and the evidence comes from Canada. I don't understand why Canada has become involved but perhaps someone will explain.

Regular readers will know I'm not convinced by the Scottish government's proposals to increase the price of alcohol in Scotland. There are other measures which are already law but not enforced and there is no hard and fast evidence to say that price increasing will reduce alcohol consumption.

Today the committee will take evidence from the Canadian National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee (NASAC) which is the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse.
Canada has some of the strictest alcohol control policies in the world and some of the highest alcohol taxes and prices in the world.

Some quotes from the NASAC's introduction:

Unfortunately, no Canadian jurisdiction that we are aware of has systematically evaluated the effectiveness of their minimum pricing policies in reducing problem drinking, even though some have had these policies in place for many years.

The level at which a proposed minimum price should be set and the justification for that level

Although very little systematic research exists to address this question, the work of Murphy and MacKillop (2006)—which looks carefully at alcohol demand functions for college students in the US—suggests that prices above $1.50 (US) per standard drink begin to exert a downward influence on alcohol consumption by young adults.

We should restate that, based on our knowledge of published literature, there is no direct evidence anywhere in the world that minimum pricing policies are effective for reducing harmful drinking at the population level. What does exist are a number of studies from different disciplines which suggest that increasing minimum prices may be an effective way of addressing problem drinking.

No evaluation for effectiveness, little systematic research - I rest my case. Do have a read of the document if you have a spare few minutes.

The live committee meeting can be viewed on Holyroodtv at 2pm, Committee Room 1.


manwiddicombe said...

The Murphy and Mackillop study can be downloaded here (.pdf) and includes the following quote (p7)

There was, however, some
evidence that the consumption patterns of heavy drinkers
are less sensitive to increases in drink price.

If minimum pricing is intended to reduce the excessive alcohol consumption of the heaviest drinkers .. .. ..

subrosa said...

Many thanks for that manwiddicombe. I can't seem to link to some .pdf's.

There is not the slightest evidence that raising prices will help reduce drinking is there? When you read the Canadians intro it made me wonder why they're giving evidence - there's so little in favour of it other than making more money for the government.

manwiddicombe said...

To be fair to the government (if only briefly you understand) in a response to an e-petition they do say

"The aim of alcohol duty is to raise revenue and not to tackle harmful drinking."

The surrounding calls for raising tax for 'health reasons' are just window dressing to make the decision more palatable to the public.

subrosa said...

I'm off to Tesco later to fill the wine racks Marvo. The health reason business is a bluff right enough.

Later I'll do a more studied post on alcohol but this post was just to bring the committee meeting today to folk's attention. Time was short earlier today.

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