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Mongan, Deirdre (2009) Alcohol pricing and promotion. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 29, Spring 2009, pp. 15-16.

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A recent report commissioned by the Department of Health in the UK has analysed the effects of alcohol pricing and promotion polices on alcohol-related consumption and, by extension, on health, crime, workplace absenteeism and unemployment to help government decide future alcohol policy.1 The research team at the University of Sheffield analysed over 40 separate policy scenarios to examine how policies affect alcohol purchasing and consumption by different population groups, including moderate, hazardous, harmful and underage drinkers, both in the on-trade and off-trade sector.

 The main effects of different policy measures are summarised below.
 The effects of introducing across-the-board price increases
Across-the-board price increases covering all products in the on-trade and off-trade can have a substantial impact on reducing consumption and harm. Such price increases mean that there is less incentive for consumers merely to switch between different types of alcohol or drinking venues, unlike price increases targeting certain products or market sectors. Across-the-board price increases tend to lead to relatively larger reductions in mean consumption than other pricing options. Policies that specifically target low-priced products or certain product categories lead to smaller changes in consumption, as they only cover a part of the market.

The effects of introducing minimum pricing
Harmful drinkers tend to buy alcohol that is cheaper than that bought by moderate drinkers. Cheap alcohol is also attractive to young people. A minimum price policy might be considered beneficial in that it targets the drinkers causing the most harm to both themselves and society while having little effect on the spending of adult moderate drinkers. Increasing levels of minimum pricing show a very steep increase in effectiveness; for example, a 20p minimum unit price would lead to a 0.1% reduction in consumption, while a 70p minimum unit price would lead to an 18.6% reduction. Minimum prices targeted at particular types of drink are less effective than all-product minimum prices.
 The effects of banning off-trade price promotions
Just over 50% of all alcohol purchased from supermarkets in the UK is sold on promotion. Only quite tight restrictions on the level of discount offered would have noticeable policy effects. Banning only buy-one-get-one-free offers has very little effect on alcohol consumption and harm. A total ban on off-trade discounting is estimated to reduce consumption by 2.8%, although this may prove effective only if retailers are prevented from reacting to the ban by simply lowering their non-promotional prices.
 The effects of banning alcohol advertising
There is some uncertainty over the mechanisms linking advertising to consumption, and it is unclear whether advertising restrictions can be expected to have an immediate effect on consumption. The international evidence suggests that the effects of advertising may be cumulative over time, and may work by influencing attitudes and drinking intentions, rather than by directly altering consumption levels.
 The effects of these policies on alcohol-related harm
In 2008 the cost of alcohol misuse in England was estimated to range between £17.7 and £25.1 billion, which corresponds to £346–£491 per head of population. The general pattern observed in this report is that the more restrictive the policy, the greater the harm reduction. Higher minimum unit prices lead to greater harm reduction.
As prices increase, alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and death eted to reduce, the reduction in deaths occg disproportionately among harmful drinkers. The health harm reon mostly related to chronic diseases rather to acute conditions such as injuries. This is because much o al-attributable heaarm occurs in middlelder age groups at significant risk of developing or dying from chronic disease. In addition, policies resulting in bigger price increases reduce deaths in moderate and hazardous drinkers. In terms of hospital admissions, policy options that increase prices for only a proportion of products and by marginal amounts have very small effects.
 Crime harms are estimated to reduce as prices are increased. Reductions take place across the spectrum of violent crime, criminal damage and theft, robbery and other crimes. A minimum unit price of 30p is estimated to reduce total crimes by around 3,800 per year, whereas at 40p the reduction is estimated at 16,000. Crime harms are estimated to reduce particularly among 11-18-year-olds as they are disproportionately involved in alcohol-related crime and are significantly affected by price rises in low-priced products.
 In general, all policy options that target harmful and hazardous drinkers are effective in reducing alcohol-related harm in the workplace. The size of the effect is dependent on the extent of the price increase. Unemployment due to alcohol problems occurs mainly in the harmful drinker group and is estimated to reduce as prices increase; for example, 3,800 avoided unemployment cases per annum in response to a minimum unit price of 30p, compared to 12,400 for a 40p minimum.
 In conclusion, pricing policies can be effective in reducing health, crime and employment harms and these policies can be targeted so that those who drink within recommended limits are minimally affected and very heavy drinkers, who are responsible for the majority of alcohol-related harms, pay the most.
 1. Meier P, Brennan A, Purshore R, Taylor K, Rafia R, Booth A et al. (2008) Independent review of the effects of alcohol pricing and promotion: Part B. Modelling the potential impact of pricing and promotion policies for alcohol in England: Results from the Sheffield alcohol policy model, Version 2008(1-1). Sheffield: University of Sheffield.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Issue Title
Issue 29, Spring 2009
Page Range
pp. 15-16
Health Research Board
Issue 29, Spring 2009
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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