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    In 1850, the French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote the parable of a shopkeeper whose window is smashed. Aghast at the damage, the shopkeeper is consoled with the idea that at least his broken windows are good for the economy, since “Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?” The alcohol industry is, in some ways, like the glazier of Bastiat’s story. Global alcohol producers profit from harmful behaviour. And they, too, try to defend themselves with the promise of employment and income. Such appeals to the economic benefits of a thriving […]
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    Alcohol produces externalities – costs that are imposed on others without their consent. For example, drinking is associated with crime and violence, road traffic accidents, costs to the healthcare system and lower economic productivity. Externalities are problematic because they are not reflected in market outcomes: consumers typically only consider the costs and benefits of drinking to themselves, and fail to consider the impact their drinking has on others. According to standard economic theory, externalities should be corrected through taxes which raise prices to reflect the social harm of a product. For example, if a pint of beer typically imposes £1 […]
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    How do they fit into the public health agenda? The growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is triggering substantial policy concern, evident, for example, in the 2011 UN high level meeting on NCDs. Yet, it’s clear that there are very different ways of thinking about this ‘epidemiological transition’. For some, including the current UK government it seems, the rise in such diseases is viewed primarily as a consequence of the choices that individuals make. In contrast, many of those working in public health understand the problem to be largely a consequence of the strategies that corporations pursue. These different views lead to different conclusions about appropriate and effective responses. […]
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    The Daily Mail claims to have a copy of proposals from the Shadow Cabinet subgroup on health. They say the Labour health blueprint includes: A total ban on the current £300 million sports sponsorship by drinks firms. Minimum alcohol price to stop ‘pre-loading’ by young drinkers. Banning supermarkets from selling drinks near the door, or sweets at the tills. New laws to curb the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food aimed at children – and a 9pm watershed  for TV adverts for unhealthy products that might appeal to youngsters. Lottery cash to build skateboard parks. Aiming to get half […]
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    When the UK Government abandoned its proposal to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol in July 2013, it argued there was a lack of concrete evidence that the policy would reduce the harm caused by alcohol without penalising responsible drinkers. In research published in the Lancet, the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group show minimum unit pricing avoids penalising moderate drinkers on low incomes and would contribute to the reduction of health inequalities. Minimum unit pricing (MUP) sets a threshold below which a unit of alcohol cannot be sold to consumers. Under a 45p MUP a pint of beer containing two units […]
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    There is still controversy about the plain packaging of cigarettes, and unit pricing of alcohol, but it seems clear that both measures will be introduced eventually throughout the UK.  But there has been relatively little political discussion of public health since the last election. Andrew Lansley claimed he wanted to be responsible for public health, and would leave the NHS to run itself.  “Tactics will be switched from nannying and legislation to nudges and persuasion”, it was claimed.  There was a lot of talk about Change For Life, which was to be funded by industry, and a promise that the […]
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    The harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths each year. 320 000 young people between the age of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9% of all deaths in that age group. Alcohol is the world’s third largest risk factor for disease burden; it is the leading risk factor in the Western Pacific and the Americas and the second largest in Europe. Alcohol is associated with many serious social and developmental issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace. (World Health Organisation) In the UK alcohol causes more harm than any other […]
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    Richard Simpson MSP argues that we need more than just minimum pricing to tackle alcohol misuse. Alcohol misuse and its consequence for health and community safety remains a significant challenge throughout the UK. The Sheffield model on which the debate around minimum unit price (MUP) has been based predicated a reduction in consumption of 3.8% from a ban on discounting. In practice there was a reduction of only 1%. It is worrying for MUP that the model has been found flawed at the first test. Increases in duty and VAT have led to an increase in price and will have […]
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    This shows the comparison of rates of liver disease in Scotland against other European countries, and against England and Wales. As alcohol becomes more affordable, consumption increases; as consumption increases, harm increases. The Scottish Government is proposing to introduce a Minimum Unit Price for alcohol so that the harm caused by cheap, strong alcohol is significantly reduced. The Minimum Unit Price is based on the number of UK units of alcohol (10 mls of pure alcohol) in a product multiplied by 50p (€0.601) per unit which is the Scottish Government’s preferred price. The Scottish Government’s case is that increased taxation […]
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