Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Does price affect drinking?

Dr. Tim Stockwell at the University of Victoria, always has the best articles about alcohol consumption. His latest one appears in the journal Addiction: "Does minimum pricing reduce alcohol consumption? The experience of a Canadian province." That province is us, "The best place on earth." This is a good argument against those who think the BCLB should loosen their unfair pricing and availability policies.
There is lots of data in this article and a super cool mathematical equation. Most of which, actually all, I cannot understand. But the bottom line is this: a 10% increase in the minimum price of an alcoholic beverage reduced its consumption, relative to other beverages, by 16%. So the more it costs, the less we drink. For beer drinkers this 10% increase only leads to a 1.5% reduction in consumption.
So why are higher liquor prices a good idea. It is helpful for a public health point of view. Evidence shows that higher liquor prices reduce alcohol related harm: drinking and driving, injuries, violence, etc. However the article does state that problem drinkers will seek out the most economical beverages, ie. spirits and fortified wines. This assumption is backed by data from the 2000 US National Alcohol Survey. It found that the top 10% of drinkers spent on average 79 cents per drink while the bottom 50% spent $4.75. Some people drink less but of better quality. Which is perhaps the opinion of the craftbeer lover.  We don't drink that much, but when we do it is good.

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