The Home Office have today launched a consultation on delivering the Government’s policies to cut alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour.
Included in this is a proposal to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in England and Wales. The government is proposing to set this at 45p, which compares to the 50p that many in the public health community are saying would be preferable.
The modelling that has informed policy makers isn’t without controversy. The Adam Smith Institute’s paper on the issue argues:
Looking more closely at the argument for minimum pricing and the associated predictions, it becomes clear that the forecasts are based on existing data, heroic assumptions and computer number-crunching in something called the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (SAPM). The results of the number-crunching are quoted without estimates of error, and in particular the model completely ignores statistical error in the alcohol-harm relationship. Far from being evidence based it would be more accurate to describe these predictions as assumption based.
So with that warning ringing in our ears let’s look at what the Sheffield model suggests the difference that a 45p or a 50p minimum unit price might make for 11-18 year olds. Interestingly with both there is assumed to be a small rise in the number of units of alcopops that’ll be drunk by this age group, but overall the number of units that each young drinker is expected to drink comes down between 36 and 47 units over the course of a year – that’s the equivalent of about a litre of vodka a year for each young drinker.
The Sheffield researchers have also given us a sense of the sorts of difference this could make on the public purse over the course of time. They say that set at 45 pence they would expect see a saving attributable to young people’s drinking of £15m in the first year of the policy being implemented, while at 50 pence that rises to £20m. Over 10 years these savings start racking up and they would expect to see direct cost savings associated with underage drinking of between £127m if MUP is set at 45p, rising to £171m if the MUP was set at 50p.
The final chart I’ve produced looks at what that might mean to an individual young person in terms of the amount they will be spending on alcohol under these two scenarios.
Of course the model looks across the whole population and at the difference they expect these policies might have on different types of consumers and it is no doubt a little unfair to take the pieces of data that I’ve focused on out of that context, but I think it is helpful to understand just what we might be expecting to see happen should these proposals be introduced by the government.