Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Minimum support, maximum damage

I know others have got there first, but I thought these two stories about minimum alcohol pricing that came out in the past few days were worth a mention.

First was an opinion poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of SABMiller, which found that a mere 0.36% of people said that it would lead them to drink more in the pub and less at home, while no less than 39% said it would mean they actually drank less in the pub. That completely undermines the argument advanced by some in CAMRA and industry twerps like Rooney Anand of Greene King that it would actually help pubs. In fact it would do just the opposite.

The pernicious effects of the policy are underlined by the fact that 16% of respondents said it would lead to them cutting back on other areas of spending, and 13% of those already in financial difficulties said they would cut back on food. A better way of making the poor poorer is hard to imagine.

Second, another poll conducted by ComRes on behalf of the WSTA found that fewer than one in five people support the plan. No less than 87% thought it would do nothing to reduce binge-drinking. You do have to wonder why the government are pressing on with such a blatantly unpopular and ineffective policy, although the word is that they are looking for a way to quietly shelve it before the European courts do it for them.

Yes, of course both SABMiller and the WSTA have an axe to grind, but YouGov and ComRes are reputable polling organisations and they certainly would not conduct such polls using dubious methodology.

11 comments:

  1. We all know CAMRA is wrong about minimum pricing and it is interesting that data is available to highlight that, but for me a more interesting question is how the beards ended up supporting it and why continue to advocate it? Most members as far as I see are entirely sceptical barring a few that sit in the odd ball end of the park.

    I am increasing coming to the conclusion that there is more involved in it than opportunism and a simplistic view of consumer behaviour and lack of appreciation of the actual home economics of choosing between available options with a finite income.

    All of those features are significant but I also think many active CAMRA members have for want of a better word fetishized the beer in pubs. Beer is the overriding reason to visit a pub. For most people the beer is incidental. People go to pubs for social reasons. CAMRA members go to pubs for the beer and don’t go to some other pubs for reasons of the beer. Therefore a mind-set accrues that pubs are comparable beer transactional trading outlets to off licences and supermarkets.

    The idea that on Saturday I want to watch the rugby and will do so in front of the telly with a can of beer being a comparable activity to going to the pub and having a pint with friends, or going into a pub to drink beer I have not had before and tick it off and score it is one I think CAMRA members would equate and none members would consider entirely separate.

    The idea that I would choose the pub over other options (because they would) if the availability of those other options decreased or the price increased thus becomes a reasonable flow of logic for the active CAMRA member. It neglects to consider that I like pubs but might actually like them less than the alternatives.

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  2. Because what the majority of CAMRA members would CAMRA to do, and what CAMRA actually does are two very, very different things. Often diametric opposites in fact.

    People obviously go to the pub for social reasons, but all else being equal, they go to this pub instead of that pub because it has better beer.

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  3. Amongst my CAMRA friends, pyo, (I do have some, I do like them, I do enjoy a beer with them, and of course I do not mean them when I disparage beards in general) I would agree that cask beer choice and quality is the overriding factor in pub choice.

    Among none CAMRA friends it is irrelevant. Not just the lager, wine, alcopop or spirit drinkers. Some like cask beer but are not overly bothered if there is nowt but smooth. You may think my friends "ignormai" as the likes of Dickie would. I think they are discerning intelligent people, they just don't give a toss about beer any more than they give a toss what brand of butter, jam or bread the missus buys.

    CAMRA was started by 4 guys that did give a toss about what they were being served in pubs, and there is nothing wrong with that. My point is that many active members more than give a toss whether the pint is pasturised or not, they have fetishized it to a degree that is outside the norms of typical behaviour and left them with a quite different world view and perspective to their fellow citizens. Now this is neither good or bad, right or wrong. It simply is and explains to some degree why they conclude supermarket bashing equates to pub supporting. But heh, it only an opinion.

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  4. THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MODERATE DRINKING

    Although there is substantial evidence of the health benefits of moderate drinking, there has been a continued campaign on the part of many alcohol opponents to suppress or deny these findings. For instance, Harvard epidemiologist Carl Seltzer, a co-investigator on the Framingham study, found positive effects of moderate drinking on heart disease 25 years ago. Seltzer was denied permission to publish these results by the US National Heart and Lung Institute on the grounds that an article about such results would be “scientifically misleading and socially undesirable in view of the major problem of alcoholism that already exists in the country.” (C. Seltzer, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 1997 50: 627-629, “Conflicts of Interest” and “political science”)THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MODERATE DRINKING

    Although there is substantial evidence of the health benefits of moderate drinking, there has been a continued campaign on the part of many alcohol opponents to suppress or deny these findings. For instance, Harvard epidemiologist Carl Seltzer, a co-investigator on the Framingham study, found positive effects of moderate drinking on heart disease 25 years ago. Seltzer was denied permission to publish these results by the US National Heart and Lung Institute on the grounds that an article about such results would be “scientifically misleading and socially undesirable in view of the major problem of alcoholism that already exists in the country.” (C. Seltzer, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 1997 50: 627-629, “Conflicts of Interest” and “political science”)

    http://brusselsdeclaration.org/pages/alcohol_control/

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  5. I expected to meet lots of members like that, but they're actually few and far between. It just happens that the old-fashioned way CAMRA works means that the hardline nutters are massively over-represented at the AGM and in the NE.

    I have many friends who don't give a monkeys about beer - but they would still be reluctant to go to a pub that didn't sell a lager. Its just that most pubs do, so their brand of pickiness is not so apparent as someone who only goes to pubs that sell barrel aged imperial stout.

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  6. In part I agree, pyo, but I am not talking about hard line nutters when I refer to the fetishisation of beer. I’m talking about the regular normal active members. I use the word fetishisation because I know no other. For instance I may enjoy my girlfriend dressing up as a nurse for an evening’s love making. I would only describe that as a fetish if I was unable to make love to my girlfriend if she didn’t dress up as a nurse for me. Applying to beer, most of the active membership is unable to enjoy a pub that does not serve cask beer. In some ways this is just free choice in a free market, and not a problem. A sexual fetish is equally not a problem so long as it is a free choice of consenting adults. I am not saying they all ought to tramp into the working mans club for a pint of smooth or fosters just to see how the other half live.

    They are as entitled to spend their hard earned money as they see fit, as am I. However this fetishisation colours how they see the world, in the same way that a sexual fetish would. And explains why such a group would support something like minimum pricing. I am aware that most of the decisions of CAMRA are made by a small minority of active members. Whether than be policy, pub awards, beer guide entry, anything. Again, I am not having a pop at CAMRA members, just pointing out they have a different world view and seeking to understand why. For the record I have personally liked every CAMRA member I have met, not even the nutters but especially the nutters.

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  7. "Most of the active membership is unable to enjoy a pub that does not serve cask beer"

    This is not my experience of the CAMRA members I have met in person. Its certainly not the prevailing attitude on the forums either.

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  8. I did a post last year called The Ale Shrine about how some CAMRA members view the pubgoing experience differently from the rest of the population, which tends to colour their opinion on various issues.

    Also, given that in this area at least the only pubs that don't serve real ale are dumps and youth bars, even if you strongly prefer real ale you're likely to find it in any pub you happen to go in.

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  9. Like you I wonder why the Gov is doing this. Alcohol consumption is falling steeply and higher prices will result in smuggling, illegal distilling and home brewing. Why would it care whether alcohol is drunk at home or in a pub?

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  10. Well, Jon, the government probably won't do it. How they drop it quietly will be interesting. Why they drop will be as much to do with the projected fall in tax receipts than EU objections.

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  11. Cookie - what's next on the CAMRA hit list now that tandy forced us to reflect upon minimum pricing?

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