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Minimum Pricing on alcohol

For news of events, petitions and campaigns that may be of interest to humanists and secularists.

The Scottish Government wants to set a minimum price of 45 pence per unit of alcohol

I agree with minimum pricing and think that 45 pence per unit is about right
3
23%
I agree with minimum pricing but think 45 pence per unit is too low
1
8%
I agree with minimum pricing but think 45 pence per unit is too high
0
No votes
I disagree with minimum pricing, but agree with alternatives such as increasing duty on alcohol
2
15%
I disagree with minimum pricing and believe that government has no business interfering with individual choice in this way
5
38%
None of the above, I will explain why in my post
2
15%
 
Total votes: 13

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Lifelinking
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Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#1 Postby Lifelinking » September 12th, 2010, 8:05 pm

The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to introduce a minimum pricing level on alcohol, of 45 pence per unit. See this report in the Guardian and this from the BBC and this from the official Scottish Government Website.

The following estimates of potential benefits of the measure are given on the latter Website.

50 fewer deaths from alcohol-related harm
1,200 fewer hospital admissions
A £5.5 million reduction in health care costs
22,900 fewer days absence from work

After 10 years, benefits would increase to:

225 fewer deaths from alcohol-related harm annually
4,200 fewer hospital admissions annually
An £83 million reduction in health care costs over the 10 year period



Not everyone agrees with the proposals however, with Scottish Labour and Conservatives arguing against it. I have blogged on the subject here and here. I would very much value your views on the subject whatever they may be.
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

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Dave B
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#2 Postby Dave B » September 12th, 2010, 8:16 pm

From what was said on the radio, and I have to admit that I have not checked to see if it was correct, the extra from the price increase due to min. pricing would go to the retailer.

I could never agree to any scheme that gave the large retailers even more money for no extra service to their customers, I would prefer extra duty and the money going into the public coffers rather shareholder's pockets or director's bonuses.

Better would be that the extra money goes into the community in which the shop is, to be used for sports facilities maybe. When a neighbouring parish council sought support, sponsorship or funding from Tesco for a proposed sports centre they were sent a £10 gift voucher.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Fia
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#3 Postby Fia » September 12th, 2010, 9:39 pm

Great blogs, LL :)

I've thought about this issue too, particularly in relation to young and under age drinking. I have no problem whatsoever with a minimum price per unit. But I think by itself it's not going to achieve as much as combining it with other related things, such as, in no particular order:

A ban, or such high taxation they are not affordable, on alcopops. These unlikely coloured mixture of sweet artificial colours and flavours which taste as bad/good as a fizzy soft drink, but with a hefty alcohol content that is not recognised by the drinkers, entices young palates into alcohol far earlier than is good for their bodies.

Combining a minimum price with some of the extra profits ploughed back to the communities, earmarked for youth work. With all those cuts coming our confused, dissolutioned and misunderstood youth need all the help they can get.

Some alcohol profit also going to research as to why so many young people think getting pissed is a great way of spending an evening. If we can understand why, we are part way there to addressing the issue where it starts. We are now in a vicious circle with these young people becoming parents with the attendant example given to their offspring...

Possibly moving offtopic, but imho still very relevant, I'd also like to see legalisation of some (actually all, but for a start, some) currently illegal drugs. We can drink ourselves into a stupor, buzz ourselves out with caffeine, smoke tobacco (if we can afford it) but we can't, legally, roll ourselves a relaxing joint after a hard day, take some mda to enhance a dance party, or even pick psilocybins with a notion to eat them. It could do wonders for tea sales :D No wonder the youth use alcohol, probably one of the worst of these drugs on a personal and societal level...

That's my current thoughts anyway, LL.

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Lifelinking
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#4 Postby Lifelinking » September 12th, 2010, 10:09 pm

Cool, thanks Dave B and Fia :thumbsup:
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

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getreal
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#5 Postby getreal » September 12th, 2010, 10:17 pm

I'm in complete agreement with the proposal to have a minimum price for alcohol, it's the most effective measure a government can take to influence sales of alcohol and has been shown to work in other countries -I'm too tired to look for sources, but can do so if asked :D

Fia mentioned the issue of "alco pops". In my experience, young people (ie underage drinkers) are not drinking these to any great extent as they are both expensive and actually low in alcoholic content (a bicardi breezer is only 4% alcohol). What young people buy and drink is very cheap cider (not really cider as we know it--more just apple flavoured alcohol). White Lightening (a very popular brand) is about 6% alcohol and can be bought for less that £2.50 for a 2 litre bottle-which is actually less than a similarly sized bottle of coke!
and of course there is that old favorite, Buckfast. It packs a whopping 15% alcohol and costs about £6 per 75ml bottle (interestingly when I was trying to get a price for it, I retured nil from Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda. I'm guessing such is the reputation of Buckfast that these big supermarkets don't want to be associated with it).

Over the past 20 years there appears to have been a huge reduction in the ammount of activities provided by the statutory or voluntary sector for young people. It has been shown that if young people have meaningful (to them, that is) and affordable activities available for them, they are less likely to become involved in alcohol and drug misuse. Around Glasgow and Inverclyde every housing scheme (that is social housing estates) seems to have a defunct community centre/library/sports complex. These buildings are falling into deriliction because government (local and central) won't pay for these activities- they are the first to go when money is tight. They are seen as "icing on the cake" and not as they should be, which is central to the development of young people.

Oooh! The bee in my bonnet seems to have escaped!
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

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Lifelinking
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#6 Postby Lifelinking » September 12th, 2010, 10:19 pm

Thanks Getreal :thumbsup:

bees in bonnets always welcome :wink:
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

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Alan C.
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#7 Postby Alan C. » September 12th, 2010, 10:57 pm

Dave B wrote:From what was said on the radio, and I have to admit that I have not checked to see if it was correct, the extra from the price increase due to min. pricing would go to the retailer.

I could never agree to any scheme that gave the large retailers even more money for no extra service to their customers, I would prefer extra duty and the money going into the public coffers rather shareholder's pockets or director's bonuses.

Better would be that the extra money goes into the community in which the shop is, to be used for sports facilities maybe. When a neighbouring parish council sought support, sponsorship or funding from Tesco for a proposed sports centre they were sent a £10 gift voucher.

I agree with Dave, any increase in cost should be in the form of more tax (can't believe I'm saying this) Rather than more profit for the retailers.
Increased tax [could] be used for the greater good. whereas increased profit for the retailer...........................?

However; I don't think a minimum price will reduce the consumption of alcohol, just as the pricing of other drugs has little or no effect on the extent of their use.

I ticked, "I disagree with minimum pricing and believe that government has no business interfering with individual choice commerce in this way"
Which I have amended.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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jaywhat
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#8 Postby jaywhat » September 13th, 2010, 6:24 am

Yes the increase will go to the retailer, but in theory they won't get that much because their sales will go down because this whole thing is aimed at the special offer guys and the 'Happy Hour' syndrome.
As I drink mainly 'Blue Becks' which is alcohol-free I shall be using the sharp edge of my tongue if it goes up by one penny - in fact to follow the theory to its logical end, Becks Blue should go DOWN ! :smile:

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Lifelinking
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#9 Postby Lifelinking » September 13th, 2010, 9:40 am

Thanks Alan C and Jaywhat :thumbsup:


I notice a few folk going for the increased taxation option. Just to clarify, there is a reason why I support minimum pricing (although I have no issue with higher taxation). As it says in the briefing paper that was produced for the Scottish Parliament by the British Medical Association and Alcohol Focus Scotland:

Alcohol Focus Scotland, BMA Scotland and SHAAP agree that action is required at a UK level to review the current taxation system. However alcohol taxation alone is not sufficient to achieve an effective impact on the public’s health. The evidence on the pricing practices of major grocery retailers in the UK reveals that alcohol is frequently sold at a loss, with many promotional offers throughout the year . An increase in alcohol taxation is not guaranteed to lead to an increase in alcohol prices as major alcohol retailers can and do absorb tax increases and even advertise the fact. Minimum pricing by contrast is a fixed floor that cannot be undercut by loss leading and below cost selling. Evidence also suggests that increasing the price of the cheapest alcohol has a greater public health benefit because cheaper alcohol tends to be bought more by harmful than moderate drinkers. It is estimated that 64% of low-cost alcohol (below 40p a unit) is drunk by individuals consuming between 50 and 35 units weekly. Action on low cost alcohol selectively targets the most harmful drinkers unlike the overall price increases achieved by excise duty increases.


With regards to increased profits that companies such as retailers / drinks companies may make, a practical measure would be to introduce minimum pricing and a levy on companies who profit from the measure, with the money raised being directed to front line services that have to deal with alcohol related harm. I heard Nicola Sturgeon mentioning this option when the 45p price was being mentioned.

For the record this is not a party political issue for me. I do not support any of the parties, prefering to cultivate and nurture a healthy and sceptical political independence so that I can happily tear in to any and all of them as required.

Thanks a'body.
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

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Alan H
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#10 Postby Alan H » September 13th, 2010, 11:25 am

jaywhat wrote:Yes the increase will go to the retailer, but in theory they won't get that much because their sales will go down because this whole thing is aimed at the special offer guys and the 'Happy Hour' syndrome.
How will the effect of this policy be monitored? If it isn't monitored, how do we know it has worked? Will they demand to see the sales figures from the supermarkets/off licences/etc? Or will they count the number of drunken violent incidents (and how crude a measure is that)?

Basically, what is the actual policy? To raise the cost of alcohol per se? Or to reduce binge drinking? Or to reduce the amount of alcohol drunk overall by some/all?

Lifelinking quoted Alcohol Focus Scotland:
It is estimated that 64% of low-cost alcohol (below 40p a unit) is drunk by individuals consuming between 50 and 35 units weekly. Action on low cost alcohol selectively targets the most harmful drinkers unlike the overall price increases achieved by excise duty increases.
It may target (as in the intention) them but what's the evidence that they will actually end up consuming less?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#11 Postby Marian » September 13th, 2010, 12:00 pm

I've no problem with minimum pricing on alcohol as well as a heavy tax to its' manufacturers/retailers. Especially if it means that young people are less likely to buy and consume it. Fia, getreal and I share the concern about getting to the root of the drinking problem and providing alternatives but I diverge at this point only to say that any type of effort to control drinking in a culture that widely celebrates it (and not just in Scotland) is probably going to require a substantial group effort on the part of all involved. ie. gov't, policing, community groups and especially parents. Is this possible?

I'd have to say no. Why? For a few reasons.
1) Drinking is embedded in the culture because it serves a purpose, not only as a social medium but also in the form of a distraction from the woes of life. For a short time, it numbs all the feelings and issues that go with life. Sometimes, I suppose that's a useful activity although I've found reality just bites back all that much harder when you're hung over. :wink:

2) Young people watch everything their parents/role models do even when it seems they aren't paying any attention or could care less. If mum and dad use alcohol to manage, their kids are very likely to do the same but kids tend to take things a step further in their 'I can do anything' attitude so they go to extremes with drinking, for example. I'm not advocating prohibition or anything like that. Just making observations.

3) What is going to be the alternative to drinking and how are you going to get people to change the habits of a lifetime, not to mention learning to ignore the pull of peers and the mass marketing of alcohol consumption in popular culture. ie music videos etc.

Fia, I'm not so sure that substituting one coping mechanism or addiction for another (ie. drugs vs alcohol) is workable. Moderation is probably the best solution but how do we define moderate? One person's moderation is another's low end.
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#12 Postby Lifelinking » September 13th, 2010, 1:11 pm

Thank you Alan H and Marian :thumbsup:

Re evidence Alan:

Wagenaar A.C., Salois M.J., Komro K.A. (2009) Effects of beverage alcohol price and tax levels on drinking: a meta-analysis of 1003 estimates from 112 studies, Addiction, Volume 104, Issue 2, pages 179–190.

And there is the Sheffield University research which can be downloaded in full in three parts here, here and here.
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

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Alan H
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#13 Postby Alan H » September 13th, 2010, 1:57 pm

Glad to see there is evidence! :smile:
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#14 Postby Fia » September 14th, 2010, 2:47 pm

Marian wrote:Fia, I'm not so sure that substituting one coping mechanism or addiction for another (ie. drugs vs alcohol) is workable.

That's not quite what I meant, I should have been clearer. I'll try now:
Firstly, alcohol IS a drug, and one that is clearly a huge factor in domestic violence, unsociable behaviour, teenage pregnancies, the rise and rise of STDs and making many town and city centres a very scary place at night. The effects of alcohol and cannabis are very different. I have no problem with recreational cannabis use, apart from its' illegality. I'll share a story from my early 20s which might help elaborate... I had a visit from the drugs squad, who peered into and sniffed my extensive herb collection and removed the only cannabis plant I've ever grown. As is usual, they made a return visit. Over a polite cup of tea, the police officer said that personally he had no problem whatsoever with folk enjoying cannabis in the evening after a hard days work. They had never had any problems with violent, over raucous or unsociable behaviour due to folk being stoned. But they spent an inordinate amount of their time dealing with drunk people, and the havoc they can cause in families and society. He told me he thought it would actually be much better if cannabis was legalised, and alcohol more difficult to obtain.
He also told me that he was grateful to my poor cannabis cultivation skills as my plant had won him the "weediest weed plant of the month" award :laughter:

Stoned folk are not violent or raucous. If you are very stoned you physically can't manage the dexterity to roll another, yet you can always pour another drink down your throat. There are better recreational drugs than alcohol.
For this, and many other reasons, some of them outlined here today, I would take issue with drugs always being used as a coping mechanism - I am referring to them in the recreational sense.

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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#15 Postby Marian » September 14th, 2010, 6:41 pm

Fia wrote:
Firstly, alcohol IS a drug, and one that is clearly a huge factor in domestic violence, unsociable behaviour, teenage pregnancies, the rise and rise of STDs and making many town and city centres a very scary place at night. The effects of alcohol and cannabis are very different. I have no problem with recreational cannabis use, apart from its' illegality.

Totally agree but the term recreational does need to be defined, don't you think? There are plenty of people who smoke cannabis who would call it merely recreational but that's very subjective. The same applies to alcohol consumers. But how could there be any type of measurement of recreational use?

There are still side effects to any drug and some people are more prone to experiencing these effects than others. I think the type of cannibis makes a difference as well. I've heard that skunk is worse than your average stuff. Both mess up your psychomotor skills so driving is out. Decrease in concentration and muscle relaxation follow. I'm not saying these are bad things. In moderation, no problem. In a safe environment, ok. But I've seen people toke before leading a motorcycle group on a ride and then again at the rest stop and a third time at the bar with a drink afterwards. Clearly there's some kind of problem there.

Fia wrote:He also told me that he was grateful to my poor cannabis cultivation skills as my plant had won him the "weediest weed plant of the month" award :laughter:
:laughter: I'd have sent you one of these if I'd known:
marijuana-growing-dvd.jpg
marijuana-growing-dvd.jpg (18.6 KiB) Viewed 2453 times
Transformative fire...

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Paolo
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#16 Postby Paolo » September 14th, 2010, 6:48 pm

45p as a minimum price for a unit is only going to hit the drinkers of really cheap or really strong booze. It will put people off whisky, gin and other spirits (for better or worse) and probably drive the poorest alcoholics to drinking alternatives to 'safe' alcohol, so there will probably be more demand for (and production of) moonshine, leading to problems with blindness and death from ingesting the methanol frequently produced in the process of making alcohol in a dodgy still.

Other than that it doesn't sound like a terrible idea given the wider positive health implications - I'd just be concerned about the increased harm likely to be experienced by the most vulnerable few - the homeless, the elderly and the youngsters who will invariably get their hands on homebrew because they can't afford the stuff that's produced properly.

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Lifelinking
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#17 Postby Lifelinking » September 14th, 2010, 7:33 pm

Interesting discussion Marian and Fia and thank you Paolo for also contributing :thumbsup:
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

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Alan H
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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#18 Postby Alan H » September 15th, 2010, 1:15 am

I think I originally assumed that the 45p per unit wasn't that much more than what it already was (shows how often I buy cheap booze!), but it seems I was wrong and that the price will have a significant impact on cost.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#19 Postby tubataxidriver » September 15th, 2010, 9:09 am

I seem to be in the minority here in that I don't think excessive taxation or pricing of these items is sensible. I take a libertarian Darwinist view. If people want to kill themselves, fine. Let's provide a bit more education on the risks, and then remove the free liver transplants, plastic surgery and other support we give to self-inflicted injury and heath effects. If people can't self-moderate their behaviours then it is their problem.

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Re: Minimum Pricing on alcohol

#20 Postby Alan H » September 15th, 2010, 11:08 am

I have some sympathy with your view, TTD, (although not about denying them health services) but the bigger problem is the effects on others, including domestic violence and the amount of police resources it ties up.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?


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