Minimum price, maximum bullshit

Minimum unit pricing for alcohol has twisted people's knickers again today.

Plenty of choice quotes have been bandied about about minimum pricing, both today and for what seems to be time immemorial.

Let's look at a few. Starting with the Home Office's Alcohol Pricing home page

"We will introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol".

And this from a European Commission technical report:

"Minimum pricing practices have tended to be seen as trade-distorting by the European courts (as setting an artificial price floor amounts to resale price maintenance, limiting and distorting price competition)"

Emily Robinson from Alcohol Concern chipped in with this in a video released to media:

"The University of Sheffield has done some analysis looking at what we might be able to save if we have the unit price implemented and we had a unit price of 50p per unit we could see over time three thousand lives saved every year"

She's got an even better quote here (emphases are mine):

"Evidence shows the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol of at least 50p per unit would be effective in saving over 3,000 lives."

I can't be sure which analysis she's referring to, as she doesn't specify and the University of Sheffield has carried out quite a bit, so instead I'll quote at random from this one: 'Model-based appraisal of alcohol minimum pricing and off-licensed trade discount bans in Scotland using the Sheffield alcohol policy model (v 2)':

"Information on the frequency and volumes involved in (heavy episodic drinking) is somewhat restricted" (p96)

"The potential implication of the (2011 rise in VAT) is that minimum price policies may be less effective because less cheaper alcohol is available" (p97)

"At this time, it was not possible to model the potential impact of the exact form of quantity-based discount ban implemented in Scotland from the data available" (p98-9)

"There is much uncertainty in the construction of a quantitative relationship between alcohol consumption and volumes of crime" (p100)

But let's end with my favourite. From the Guardian, it's by J D Wetherspoon's chairman Tim Martin

"(Minimum pricing) is a placebo that won't have any effect on the underlying problem. It's utter bollocks, basically. If you want people to pay more for their beer, there is one solution: get them to go to pubs. The problem with Cameron and Osborne is they haven't worked in a fucking pub."

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