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With this first UK survey providing data on price paid for alcohol plus consumption and income, the evidence is converging on the conclusion that poor heavy drinkers would be most affected by a minimum per unit price, gaining most in health, but losing most either in having to spend more or cut back on their drinking.
Minimum unit pricing for alcohol has in England faced the barrier of being seen as punishing the majority drinking public for the minority of irresponsible and ‘binge’ drinkers. This report reassuringly assessed the impacts on moderate drinkers as minor – but less reassuringly, so too the impacts on young ‘bingers’.
STUDY 2014 HTM file
Model-based appraisal of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Wales
After similar analyses for England and Scotland comes this simulation of what a minimum unit price for alcohol would do for health, crime and workplace absence in Wales. The conclusion is the same: set at the right level, the policy substantially saves lives and reduces social impact by making (especially poor and heavy) drinkers cut back.
STUDY 2014 HTM file
Monitoring and evaluating Scotland’s alcohol strategy. Fourth annual report
Report evaluating Scotland’s national alcohol strategy concludes that changes to alcohol licensing laws are unlikely to have affected alcohol-related harm, but that the ban on quantity discounts in the off-trade and increased delivery of brief interventions may have contributed to recent declines in alcohol consumption and harms.
STUDY 2008 HTM file
Independent review of the effects of alcohol pricing and promotion
Commissioned by the English health department, the first study to model the impacts of alcohol policies by integrating data on pricing, promotion, purchasing, consumption and harm found that raising price or banning promotions can bring major benefits. The findings helped persuade government to introduce a minimum per unit price for alcohol.
When for England the UK government reverted from a proposed minimum unit price for alcohol to a ban on pricing below duty plus VAT, they abandoned a policy that would probably have had 40–50 times the impact on consumption and reaped correspondingly greater health gains.
Scotland’s 2005 licensing reforms placed it in the vanguard across the UK, notably in adding public health to licensing objectives. There were important positives, but implementing this key measure foundered on the difficulty of relating decisions on individual licensed premises to health trends across an area.
Review updating knowledge to mid-2011 confirms that alcohol-related harm and illness have been curbed by increasing alcohol prices or taxes, but what happens to overall mortality remains unclear – and there is more to why people do or do not drink than health and harm.
For what seems the first time, this analysis combined results from relevant studies to test whether low tax/price levels on alcohol result in poorer health and higher death rates. It found the expected relationships, but based on only the partial accounting of the harms and benefits of drinking found in most studies.
Changing alcohol tax rates in New York state mostly did not significantly affect the number of people who died from alcohol related diseases, perhaps as overall tax rates were still very low, and increases or decreases not always applied to all types of alcohol at once.
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