I will be on the Nolan TV show this evening, BBC1 Northern Ireland. The topic being debated is how do we cope with the alcohol abuse which is all to evident on our streets. One suggestion is that we should impose minimum pricing on alcoholic drinks. I think this is a crazy idea and will be opposing it. Here are some of my thoughts on the issue;
1. Most people drink sensibly and in moderation. Only a minority abuse alcohol, why should we therefore penalise the vast majority of sensible drinkers?
2. Those who DO consume the most alcohol exhibit price are the least price elastic. They will pay what it takes to get what they want. By increasing prices, you deprive them of disposal income. This could push them into poverty.
3. There is evidence that suggests that those who drink moderately enjoy better health than those who are teetotal. If you push moderate drinkers out of the market, might you then actually damage their health?
4. In countries like Denmark and Sweden, alcohol prices are already high. They still suffer from alcohol abuse. In France, alcohol prices are low and alcohol abuse is also lower.
5. If putting the price of something stopped the most vulnerable from buying it, have you SEEN the number of teenage girls who smoke?
6. Alcohol abuse is cultural. You deal with it by making it uncool. Yet Films, TV and Music play it up as a cool thing.
Seeking to manipulate price is far too crude, there is no empirical evidence to support it, and it will do more harm than good. Thoughts?