Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Arse backwards but facing the right way. Sort of.

The PM is apparently against a minimum price for alcohol. Which is good. Whilst he may be against it, he doesn't appear to know what it actually is though. And having an MP (let alone the PM) arguing against something that they're not able to identify, that is worrying. Or it would be worrying if one weren't quite so worried already.

And to make it even weirder (for me anyway) is the fact that I'm sort of in agreement with the anti-minimum price stance. Key's argument is that it would just get the poor drinking lower queality alcohol. This is the bit that's arse backwards by the way. A minimum price on alcohol would mean the price of the low quality, cheap alcohol would rise, while most probably meaning that the price of the higher quality alcohol's would stay the same.


The problem that occurs to me with a minimum price policy is that it will make no difference to those heavy drinkers who can already afford to drink. For those on lower incomes, alcohol is already a luxury and I suspect those heavy drinkers who would be put off by a price rise are probably already drinking less. Which leaves those on low incomes who aren't willing to give up their booze. Where does their money come from then? The power bill? The kids lunch money? I could be convinced otherwise with some hard data from actual studies, but straight off the bat, I'm not convinced that a minimum price policy is necessarily a good thing.


  1. See section 17 of the 2010 Law Commission report, 'Alcohol in our community: curbing the harm' - and in particular this summary paragraph (17.52):

    '...while any single elasticity measure will not successfully capture the heterogeneity of heavier drinkers’ varied responses to price changes, recent modelling and cost-effectiveness analyses have assumed heavy drinkers are one-third less responsive than moderate drinkers to changes in price. However, as discussed above, these global estimates, do not necessarily capture the full picture'.


    Still, one-third less is better than nothing, right?

  2. The question then becomes what sort of damage is going to result from those 2/3rds of heavier drinkers that might not respond.

    The thing that I get from the bit on heavier drinkers (17.41-17.52) is that internationally, the responses have been varied. there's all sorts of factors that could change the results.

    Which makes it an ideal opportunity to try out a trial such as Ben Goldacre has been recommending lately.
    If you're going to implement it, start studying patterns/collecting data for NZ now so that we can compare afterwards. Implement it for 5 years and see what happens, if it's good, lock it in, if it's not, get rid of it.

    I suspect some, but not all of the data needed is probably being collected atm, depending on what questions we would be wanting to answer at the end of a trial.