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Drug and Alcohol Findings. (2012) Effectiveness Bank Bulletin [Alcohol pricing]. Drug and Alcohol Findings. Effectiveness Bank Bulletin, 20 Dec

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1. Does minimum pricing reduce alcohol consumption? The experience of a Canadian province.
Stockwell T., Auld C., Zhao J. et al. Addiction: 2012, 107(5), p. 912–920.
The Canadian province of British Columbia offered a confirmatory real-world test of whether plans in Britain to impose a high minimum price for a unit of alcohol really will reduce consumption, first step in the chain expected to lead to improved public health and productivity and reduced crime.

Summary
Over the 21 years from April 1989 to April 2010 the Canadian province of British Columbia set minimum prices per litre for different types of alcoholic beverages. Though not actually setting a fixed per unit price, the impact of the adjustments in price in the province offer a real-world test of per-unit pricing policies whose potential impacts have been modelled for England and Scotland, and which their respective governments plan to implement to improve public health and productivity and reduce crime.

The rates were implemented by the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch, a public agency with a monopoly on alcohol distribution which sells alcohol through its own off-licence shops and through private stores. The retail prices of draft beers and ciders served in on-licence premises are less directly influenced by these rates, so the study confined itself to packaged products, responsible for the great majority of the alcohol consumed in the province. For beers, wines and spirits, the most popular drinks, by the end of the study period the government's pricing policies effectively set the minimum price per standard drink containing 17.05ml of alcohol at between 0.72 and 1.35 Canadian dollars.

The impact on overall consumption of the periodic adjustments in minimum prices were assessed by relating total sales of alcohol per adult or older teenager in the population to a given proportional increase in average minimum prices, weighted to reflect how much of each type of alcohol was sold and adjusted for inflation. Adjustments were made for trends in household income and the average price of alcohol plus seasonal and other trends unrelated to price. Calculations for individual beverage types assessed both the impact of a change in minimum price relative to other drinks (sales of which may for example have increased as the price of the focal beverage rose in relative terms) and in absolute terms over time.


2. The raising of minimum alcohol prices in Saskatchewan, Canada: impacts on consumption and implications for public health.
Stockwell T., Zhao J., Giesbrecht N. et al. American Journal of Public Health: 2012, 102(12), p. e103–e110.
The Canadian province of Saskatchewan offered a confirmatory real-world test of whether plans in Britain to impose high minimum price for a unit of alcohol really will reduce consumption, first step in the chain expected to lead to improved public health and productivity and reduced crime.

Summary
In steps from 2003 to April 2010, the Canadian province of Saskatchewan moved significantly toward the public health ideal of a fixed minimum price for a unit of alcohol, offering a real-world test of similar policies whose potential impacts have been modelled for England and Scotland, and which their respective governments plan to implement to improve public health and productivity and reduce crime.

Though not actually setting a fixed per unit price, the province set per litre prices for beverages in different strength bands which in the end came close to setting a per unit price. After substantial increases and extensions to other beverage types in April 2010, the province ended with minimum prices which, depending on beverage type and strength, averaged between 1.16 and 1.84 Canadian dollars per standard drink containing 17.05 ml of alcohol, among the highest of all Canadian provinces. By levying proportionately greater increases in minimum prices on stronger beverages, the final step taken in April 2010 also substantially reduced incentives for selecting these drinks. Despite this, most low alcohol content products still had slightly higher minimum prices per standard drink than their high alcohol content counterparts.

The rates were implemented by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, a public agency with a monopoly on alcohol distribution and a partial monopoly on the sale of alcohol in off-licence stores. Prices applied directly to off-licence sales and to the prices the authority charged bar and restaurant owners, meaning they also indirectly affected on-licence retail prices, but probably less so than off-licence prices.

The impact of these changes on alcohol consumption in the province were assessed by relating a given proportional increase in minimum prices to total sales of alcohol by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority per adult or older teenager in the population over the two years before the April 2010 changes and the following two years. Similar calculations were made for sales of different beverages and sales through off- versus on-licence outlets. The calculations for beverage types took in to account trends in the average overall price of alcohol and in the per capita consumption of all other beverages, effectively throwing in to relief the impact of changes in the minimum price of alcohol for each beverage type against the context of overall trends in price and consumption. Adjustments were also made for trends in household income, cost of living, socio-demographic variables, time of year, and underlying trends over time.


Item Type:Evidence resource
Publication Type:Review
Drug Type:Alcohol
Intervention Type:AOD disorder harm reduction, AOD disorder
Source:Drug and Alcohol Findings
Date:20 December 2012
Publisher:Drug and Alcohol Findings
Corporate Creators:Drug and Alcohol Findings
Volume:20 Dec
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Subjects:B Drugs and alcohol substances > Alcohol
G Health and disease > Drugs and alcohol disorder > Alcohol use
A Drugs and alcohol use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence of drugs and alcohol use > Drugs and alcohol use behaviour > Alcohol consumption
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Economic policy
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Economic aspects of drugs and alcohol (cost / pricing)
VA Geographic area > Canada

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