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New claims that increasing the cost of alcohol saves lives are misleading


New claims by researchers in Canada that increasing the cost of alcohol would save lives have been branded misleading and inaccurate.


Official statistics – available on the researchers’ own website – show the number of deaths actually rose during the period they studied.

The study used estimates of the number of deaths rather than official hospital records.

The research from the University of Victoria Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia has been published after the Government’s consultation on introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol in England and Wales closed this week.

Academics claims that between 2002 and 2009 a 10% increase in the average minimum price for all alcoholic drinks was associated with a 32% reduction in alcohol-related deaths.

Their paper states the deaths were estimated based on population attributable fractions (PAFs) for alcohol rather than official hospital records.i

However, the official statistics – published on the university’s website – show the number of deaths went up from 1073 in 2002 to 1169 in 2009. The number actually rose in most years and no year saw a lower total than in 2002.

Furthermore, the system used in Canada is not comparable to a minimum unit price proposed in the UK. Rules governing the sale of alcohol in Canada were borne out of prohibition, with states given a monopoly on alcohol sold in separate government shops at a floor price. 

Miles Beale, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “This research is misleading. The number of deaths attributed to alcohol actually went up when the price of alcohol increased.

“There is not a simple link between alcohol price and harm. Consumption is more likely to be related to cultural factors and that the increase in price does not impact on these significantly.

“The industry is committed to tackling problem drinking and its consequences, but minimum unit pricing will not do that.

“Minimum unit pricing will impact on the majority of responsible consumers while doing nothing to tackle alcohol-related harms.”

The WSTA has been backed up by the respected think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs.

Christopher Snowdon, fellow at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said:

"If you torture the statistics, they will confess to anything. Astonishingly, the researchers chose to ignore the number of alcohol-related deaths recorded in British Colombia and instead came up with their own estimates.   “Even by the standards of similar policy-based evidence, turning a 9 percent increase in deaths into a 32 percent reduction is quite a feat. Hopefully politicians who are contemplating this deeply regressive policy will pay more attention to real lives than they do to hypothetical deaths."

ENDS   Notes to editors:

Number of Deaths Attributable to Alcohol, Illicit Drugs and Tobacco   for BC 2002-2009[i]

 
                   

Alcohol

   
 

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

 

Interior

258

267

285

296

290

307

295

305

 

Fraser

260

291

294

318

320

330

317

271

 

Vancouver Coastal

235

223

236

255

232

233

231

220

 

Vancouver Island

206

217

235

259

270

290

307

273

 

Northern

113

105

105

95

93

113

116

98

 

BC

1073

1103

1158

1224

1205

1276

1268

1169

 

i Addiction:The Relationship between Changes to Minimum Alcohol Prices, Outlet Densities and Alcohol Attributable Deaths in British Columbia in 2002-2009: “AA deaths were estimated based on population attributable fractions (PAFs) for alcohol and the number of deaths for each of the disease or injury categories [1]. PAFs are the proportional reduction in population mortality that would occur if exposure to a risk factor such as alcohol use was eliminated or reduced. They are calculated based on estimated population exposure to alcohol and established risk relations between consumption and different disease categories. Mortality data used in this study were received from the BC Statistics Agency by types of death, HSDA, quarter and year.”   

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association The WSTA is the UK lobbying organisation for the wine and spirit industry representing over 340 companies producing, importing, transporting and selling wines and spirits. We campaign to promote the industry’s interests with governments at home and abroad. We work with our members to promote the responsible production, marketing and sale of alcohol.

For more information please contact Aileen Keyes:

Tel:       +44 (0) 20 7089 3881

Mob:    +44 (0) 7504 498 656

Email:   [email protected]

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