WSTA Advise Claims that Increasing the Cost of Alcohol Saves Lives are Misleading
The WSTA advise new claims by researchers in Canada that increasing the cost of alcohol would save lives are misleading and inaccurate. Official statistics – available on the researchers own website – show the number of deaths actually rose during the period they studied.
The study used estimates of the number of deaths rather than official hospital records. The research from the University of Victoria Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia has been published after the Government’s consultation on introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol in England and Wales closed this week.
Academics claim that between 2002 and 2009 a 10% increase in the average minimum price for all alcoholic drinks was associated with a 32% reduction in alcohol-related deaths. Their paper states the deaths were estimated based on population attributable fractions (PAFs) for alcohol rather than official hospital records.i
However, the official statistics – published on the university’s website – show the number of deaths went up from 1073 in 2002 to 1169 in 2009. The number actually rose in most years and no year saw a lower total than in 2002. Furthermore, the system used in Canada is not comparable to a minimum unit price proposed in the UK. Rules governing the sale of alcohol in Canada were borne out of prohibition, with states given a monopoly on alcohol sold in separate government shops at a floor price.
Miles Beale, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “This research is misleading. The number of deaths attributed to alcohol actually went up when the price of alcohol increased. ”
“There is not a simple link between alcohol price and harm. Consumption is more likely to be related to cultural factors and that the increase in price does not impact on these significantly. The industry is committed to tackling problem drinking and its consequences, but minimum unit pricing will not do that.
“Minimum unit pricing will impact on the majority of responsible consumers while doing nothing to tackle alcohol-related harms.”
The WSTA has been backed up by the respected think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs. Christopher Snowdon, fellow at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said:
“If you torture the statistics, they will confess to anything. Astonishingly, the researchers chose to ignore the number of alcohol-related deaths recorded in British Colombia and instead came up with their own estimates. Even by the standards of similar policy-based evidence, turning a 9% increase in deaths into a 32% reduction is quite a feat. Hopefully politicians who are contemplating this deeply regressive policy will pay more attention to real lives than they do to hypothetical deaths.”