Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Prohibition planet

More evidence that anti-drink campaigners inhabit a different world from the rest of us came in the comments here from Dr Petra Meier (sounds like a fun girl) that 50p/unit minimum pricing would only cost “moderate drinkers” £18 a year, which sounds like small beer. But how much is this so-called “moderate drinker” actually drinking? Turns out it’s 250 units a year, or less than five a week. That’s two pints or two glasses or wine a week, an amount that would be considered entirely safe for a pregnant women. In reality, in anyone’s book, that isn’t moderate drinking, it’s extremely light, even featherweight drinking.

Surely a moderate drinker should be defined as someone adhering to the official guidelines of 21-28 units a week, who would see their costs increase by between £75 and £105 a year, which doesn’t seem so trivial. Someone drinking 50 units a week – a level that still produces better health outcomes than total abstinence – would be paying £180 a year more. It’s very clear that, despite what the anti-drink lobby claim, minimum pricing would hit ordinary, responsible drinkers very hard in the pocket, and its impact would certainly not be confined to heavy boozers.

The UK already has some of the most expensive off-trade alcohol in Western Europe, and, if there was a direct link between price and alcohol problems, we wouldn’t have any alcohol problems. Clearly, these problems, such as they are (and the anti-drink lobby consistently exaggerate both their scale and severity) are not caused primarily by cheap drink, and therefore there is no guarantee that simply jacking up prices would do anything to solve them.

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