Minimum pricing is the theory that increasing the price of a commodity will reduce its consumption. It also presumes (in the case of alcohol) that there's a problem to be solved (consumption is increasing,) and that minimum pricing is the answer to that problem (by decreasing consumption.) The real problem here is that alcohol consumption in the UK isn't increasing by anything like that which we are lead to believe - it's actually decreasing.
For example, the UK government has proposed to bring in a minimum price of 40 pence per (UK) unit in an effort to make binge drinking and preloading more expensive and reduce the amount of binge drinking and preloading.
The theory presumes that the commodity being priced in such a way exhibits elasticity and that the particular brands affected are the ones being consumed.
Unfortunately the commodities suggested to be subjected to minimum pricing are fairly in-elastic, in that increasing the price will not affect the demand, and the brands affected are typically far sub-premium that and aren't the ones typically being bought.
Of course, once minimum pricing is enacted, there's the fact that once it is noticed that it's not having 'the desired effect,' (see elasticity above,) there will be calls for the minimum price to increase.
Another thing rarely considered is the inevitable increase in cross-border purchasing of alcohol, and - as pointed out in a reply to the Health Committee on the subject of minimum pricing of alcohol in the UK - 'black-market' transactions:
The reply goes on to mention something else that is rarely mentioned with respect to attempts to control alcohol consumption purely by pricing - home-brewing and home-distilling (of which the former is - currently - legal in the UK, the latter isn't, not that, like a lot of things, stops people from doing it.)
UK Media - Alcohol
Debunking of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model, Nov 2012
Duffy & Snowdon (2012) is a research piece debunking the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model, which is (ab)used in justifying the England/Welsh and Scottish Government's attempts at introducing minimum pricing of alcohol in the UK. It accuses the University of Sheffield of making false assumptions, creating data where there was previously no data available and ignores the economic concepts of price elasticity, the Laffer Curve and thus the existence of cross-border shopping and the black market.
The University of Sheffield farce - Sep 2012
At the start of September, "academics" at the "School of Health and Related Research" at the University of Sheffield, released "research" commissioned by the BBC programme Panorama, claiming that up to 50,000 lives could be saved over the next decade in England if it were to adopt a minimum price for alcohol.
Needless to say, this 5,000/year-50,000/decade numbers were bunkum.
Even at the time, doubt was cast on these numbers:
And on 28 Sep 2012, the BBC printed a correction, and pulled the iPlayer version of the Panorama show:
UK Government - Alcohol
As noted above, the UK Government has proposed that there be a 40p minimum price per alcoholic unit. We will ignore, here, the fact that the unit is a completely arbitrary measure of alcohol and not only differs in how much alcohol it represents from country to country, but different countries have different ideas on how much alcohol is the 'recommended daily/weekly intake.'
Asda are currently selling 8x275ml Smirnoff Ice (5%) for £7.50. That's 2.2l x 5 = 11 UK units. Or 68.18p per unit. Tescos are currently selling 3x12X284ml Stella (5%) for £22.00. That's 10.224l x5 = 51.12 units. Or 43.04p per unit.
Proponents for minimum pricing claim that this is intended to target the 'cheaper' brands, and won't affect the more expensive brands (such as Smirnoff Ice or Stella,) but if the cheaper brands are pushed close to the same price point as the premium brands, the premium brands must put their prices up to preserve the 'air of premiumness' they currently enjoy.
University of Sheffield study debunked - 12 Oct 2012
The Minimum Price Escalator - Sep 2012
In response to the House of Commons Health Select Committee report of Session 2012-13, the Govenment's reply is out
First they start with (pdf page 5)
Which promulgates the false ideas that
- there is a problem with binge drinking in the UK - there isn't; consumption of alcohol in the UK has been in decline since 2004/5,
- the solution to binge drinking is to penalise everyone by increasing the price, instead of penalising the offenders by arresting them, and
- anything over 2 pints of lager for a bloke in a 'session' is excessive, when the limits were plucked out of thin air.
Anyway, the government's solution to #2 is (pdf pages 7-8):
Scottish Government - Alcohol
The Scottish Government have proposed a 50p minimum price per unit.
Scottish Government postpones plans - 15 Oct 2012
Alcohol Focus Scotland represents government - 26 Sep 2012
Alcohol Focus Scotland, a fake-charity that got nearly half of it's £1M funding for 2011 from the Government, is to represent the Scottish government in a legal fight with manufacturers against the concept of a minimum price for alcohol.
Considering the wealth of information that, in the UK in general, [Alcohol_Consumption#United_Kingdom|alcohol consumption] has been decreasing steadily, one wonders what evidence AFS are proposing to submit. Sadly the Guardian article quoted above is somewhat light on the details. As is AFS's site; unsurprising since one of the articles seems to be largely a copy/paste of the other.
As pointed out at the end of the Guardian article, minimum pricing will not fix the alleged problems that are said to exist:
Minimum price of AU$8-AU10 for a bottle of wine
There's that elasticity again...
- Minimum alcohol price planned for England and Wales - BBC News
- Health Committee - The Government's Alcohol StrategyWritten evidence from Mr Christopher Snowdon (GAS 49) - publications.parliament.uk
- Police identify three victims of explosion at illegal distillery - The Independant
- - Minimum price for alcohol 'will save 50,000 pensioners' - The Telegraph WebCite archive
- Minimum alcohol price 'could save 5,000 older people's lives a year' - The Guardian WebCite archive
- Alcohol Concern on the march again - Velvet Glove, Iron Fist blog
- Minimum alcohol price 'would save 11,500 pensioners' - The BBC
- Panorama - The BBC iPlayer WebCite archive
- Minimum Pricing– autocratic, badly researched, regressive & unchallenged by liberals. - Liberal Vision
- Government Response to the House of Commons Health Select Committee Report of Session 2012-13: Government’s Alcohol Strategy - dh.goc.uk
- Scottish government seeks minimum alcohol price of 50p per unit - BBC News
- Minimum pricing plans in Scotland shelved by ministers - Scotsman
- Alcohol Focus Scotland, SC009538 - OSCR
- Charity to support Scottish government in legal battle over alcohol price - The Guardian
- AFS intervenes in minimum pricing legal challenge - AFS
- Industry revolts as federal health agency proposes ban on discount booze - couriermail.com.au