Benefits of price rises and bloody marys
The Institute of Alcohol Studies claims evidence from Canada shows minimum unit pricing for alcohol brings significant health benefits (Report, 1 May). Using their own estimates of population attributable fractions, researchers in British Columbia say between 2002 and 2009 a 10% increase in average minimum price was associated with a 32% fall in alcohol-related deaths. But actual hospital records show that the number of alcohol-related deaths in British Colombia in that period went up – from 1,073 to 1,169.
There is another problem. One state, Alberta, does not have controls on the sale of alcohol, but shows no discernible difference in drinking patterns and health harms compared with the rest of Canada. This shows there is no simple link between alcohol price and harm, and that cultural factors are the most likely indicators of consumption patterns. Dr Perry Kendall, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, acknowledges that provincial governments in Canada have introduced a minimum price “mainly to bring in money rather than to protect public health”.
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