March was particularly difficult when the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) - the trendiest think tank of the past year for 'progressives' - theorised that shifting cash from consumer to industry is a particularly silly approach. In the same month, Doctors taking part in a BMJ poll weighed in with their own condemnation.
Will minimum alcohol pricing reduce problem drinking?The Office of Fair Trading handed out another kick in the gonads for the plan last week by filling in some detail to support the IFS opinion.
Yes: 258 (33%)
No: 527 (67%)
Plans to outlaw cheap alcohol will backfire, says watchdogIn the face of such united opposition from three respected sources, Scottish politicians did the only thing they could possibly do. They
David Cameron's plans to outlaw cheap alcohol are likely to backfire as supermarkets will be encouraged to “sell more, not less” drink, the Office of Fair Trading has warned.
The watchdog is concerned there will be harmful “unintended consequences” if the Coalition presses ahead with plans to impose a minimum 40p price per unit of alcohol.
Its biggest concern is that shops will have an “incentive” to promote their cheapest ranges of drinks because they will benefit from higher margins on these products.
In evidence to MPs, the watchdog said supermarkets and the drinks industry would gain “additional profit for every unit of low-cost alcohol that they sell”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "International evidence shows minimum pricing will reduce consumption and reduce alcohol-related harm.So there you have it. Large profits for industry - and a higher unit price - will lead, inevitably, to a reduction in alcohol consumption."
Apparently, though, this cast-iron economic truth from those sages in the public health business seems to be reversed when it comes to tobacco.
So what can we expect locally from Big Tobacco [once plain packaging is introduced]? First, we will see dramatic price falls in the retail price of tobacco. Many will think “these [famous name brand] cigarettes are costing me $3 to $4 a pack more than cheap unknown brands in exactly the same packaging except for the small brand name. They taste pretty much the same as cheap brands, so why should I pay out all the extra?”You see, the silver bullet for tobacco control is the complete opposite. Small profits for industry - and a lower unit price - will lead, inevitably, to a reduction in tobacco consumption.
Tobacco companies today chase the “value market” because they know that total sales volume is steady and the margins on high-end brands is where they profit most. [...] Plain packaging strips the industry of this vital source of revenue ...
Quite obviously, they cannot both be correct so at least one lobby must be lying. Yes?
Or maybe both.
Consider this. Minimum pricing proponents claim that the profits windfall their idea will bring to cheaper alcohol is irrelevant, presumably because any extra investment in marketing those brands will have no effect on consumption. The public are too clever for that.
Meanwhile, plain packaging proponents are claiming that just glimpsing a coloured packet is enough to send members of the public - especially children - into a frenzy of consumerism through their abysmal lack of willpower and self restraint. Cos we're all stupid automatons, see?
It seems that, if you work in public health, any old argument will do as long as it's backed up with enthusiastic, state-funded bullshit.