THE DEADLY COST OF NOT RAISING DRINK PRICES
It's clear: if alcohol is more expensive, lives are saved and crime falls. So why the resistance? Magnus Linklater investigates a sobering issue in The Times.
Can you be “lukewarm” about a proposal that would save lives and cut crime? Can you indulge in a philosophical discussion about governments and how far they should interfere with our lives, when people are dying of diseases that could be prevented?
Gordon Brown says that he is “lukewarm” on proposals to introduce a minimum pricing strategy to curb alcohol, but he knows, because Sir Liam Donaldson, his chief medical officer, has told him, that the statistics show overwhelmingly that putting up prices would cut the number of alcohol-related deaths – and dramatically at that.
When Sheffield University carried out its definitive review last year of the effect of increasing the price per unit of alcohol on sales and consumption, it came up with a striking model and some equally striking conclusions. A minimum price of 40p per unit, it estimated, would reduce hospital admissions by 40,000; it would cut crime by 3,800 cases a year; it would save the government more than £1billion in social costs; above all, it would reduce the number of deaths by anything up to half.
If this was just some urbane discussion on The Moral Maze, we might indeed balance the philosophical with the practical. But this is now a matter of life and, increasingly, death. We cannot stand back and allow the market to dictate events, not least because the market is slewed in favour of those who disrupt society rather than those who hold it together.
I suspect that the real reason for the objections to minimum pricing comes from the drinks industry rather than from conscience. And that is a lousy reason for letting the mayhem continue.