Thursday 21 February 2013

Another Blow For Minimum Pricing - Alcohol 'Availability Theory' Debunked

This study, published last week, is very interesting. Investigating the effects of the Licensing Act 2003 - you know, the one where '24 hour drinking' was set to plunge Britain into a drunken version of Mad Max according to the more excitable press - the authors investigated Manchester Police records to see if the many popular myths about its link with drink-fuelled violence had any basis in fact (emphasis mine, it crops up later).
We treated the removal of trading hour restrictions that resulted from the Act as a natural experiment in order to test two competing hypotheses: first, that flexible trading hours would lead to a reduction in levels of violence (as predicted by the Labour Government); and secondly, that flexible trading hours would increase levels of violence (as predicted by availability theory [8]).
Study and micro-study Manchester Police statistics as they might (the lead author was from Cambridge's Institute of Public Health) they just couldn't find any increase in violence attributable to so-called "24 hour" sales under the Licensing Act 2003.
This study found no evidence that a national policy increasing the physical availability of alcohol affected the overall volume of violence.
In case you suffer one of those Daily Mail believing relatives (as I do) who attribute town centre Armageddon to Blair's loosening of licensing restrictions, try showing them this (click to enlarge).

Violence (a), robbery (b) and total crime (c)  against weeks after legislation (2004-2008)
There is nothing in those graphs to justify moral panicking from certain sections of the media. In fact, some might claim a decline at the end there, doncha think?

Which kinda agrees with something I posted up in December 2010 following a FOI request.
So, although consumption is most definitely decreasing, the behaviour of those out on the razzle must be appalling. After all, there wouldn't be the great call for minimum alcohol pricing to stop all those youths 'pre-loading' otherwise, right? 
To find out, it's best to ask the experts. And this is where the Freedom of Information Act can be so very useful. For example, if you asked a large police force - the Metropolitan Police is a good one - how many people have been arrested for 'drunk and disorderly' since 2001, what do you think the response would be?

Not altogether dissimilar, I think you'll agree.

This puts another spoke into Cameron's justification for minimum alcohol pricing. Remember that it is being pitched as tackling binge-drinking and public order on the 'evidence' of low priced availability - because they haven't a cat in hell's chance of getting it past the EU on health grounds, of course.

But according to the above study, availability of alcohol is pretty inconsequential. If you're planning to get shit-faced and cause trouble, you're going to get shit-faced and cause trouble. If you're not intending to, you won't.

Widening the hours that alcohol is available didn't change that, nor will the addition of a couple of quid on a bottle of cheap vodka. People generally know what they want from life and have always been more resourceful than politicians take them for. To think that the public will suddenly behave to match what a shonky computer model - created by inept researchers from Sheffield University - says they will, is absurd.

That seems to have put paid to this 'availability theory', then. And so it should, because the reference points us in the direction of this from 2004.

Oh look, the world's authority on 'availability theory' is apparently our old friend Tim "Cyclops" Stockwell, the same clown who accepts evidence he agrees with and discards anything he doesn't, and is responsible for conning the BBC into publishing demonstrable garbage about, you guessed it, minimum alcohol pricing.

The forensic search for any credible real life benefit to minimum pricing continues, then.

1 comment:

SadButMadLad said...

What's probably getting all the puritans in all a tizzy in making them think the end of the world is nigh with young people getting plastered out of the brains left right and centre is that with fewer drinking, those who do stand out more. So what is actually a small number of people in the town centres causing trouble seem like many thousands because they are more visible - no one else is around anymore what with bans of one sort or the other.