Lifestyle Economics

Let minimum unit pricing fade into the sunset


In the Media

Christopher Snowdon quoted in ITV News

Housing and Planning

Christopher Snowdon writes for The Critic

IEA Head of Lifestyle Economics Christopher Snowdon has written in The Critic evaluating the impact of Scotland’s minimum unit pricing for alcohol and arguing that the policy has failed, even on its own terms.

Christopher wrote:

“It seems inconceivable that anyone could claim that minimum pricing was a success, but never underestimate the determination of the public health lobby. Public Health Scotland has today declared that the policy “had a positive impact on health outcomes” and claimed that it “reduced deaths directly caused by alcohol consumption by 13.4 per cent and hospital admissions by 4.1 per cent”. These estimates come straight out of a study published in March which has become a life raft for supporters of minimum pricing to cling to.

“The authors of that study compared Scottish data between 2018 to 2020 to a counterfactual of what they thought would have happened if minimum pricing had not been introduced. The counterfactual was largely based on trends in England, which does not have minimum pricing. Both countries saw a large rise in alcohol-related deaths in 2020, presumably due to the stress of the pandemic, but Scotland saw a decline in 2019 whereas England saw a slight rise. It is this contrast that forms the basis of the claim that minimum pricing saved lives.

“Public Health Scotland doesn’t mention it but the 4.1 per cent decline in hospital admissions reported in the same study was not statistically significant and was, again, only an estimate compared to a hypothetical counterfactual; alcohol-related hospital admissions did not fall in 2018 or 2019. Similarly, the 13.4 per cent decline in mortality compared to a counterfactual does not mean that the number of deaths actually declined. On the contrary, Scotland’s alcohol-specific death rate rose from 20.5 per 100,000 people in 2017 to 21.5 per 100,000 people in 2020.”

Read Christopher’s full piece here.