Alcohol tax "designed to boost revenue, not improve public health"

18 May 2012

Scottish people are not all half soaked and tight. That is a vicious stereoptypical judgment. What better way for the Scottish Government to prove this is not the case, than by claiming that increasing the price of alcohol will stop everyone drinking. This, of course, is yesterday's news, and something that is also probably not news to the rest of us is that it is all a load of Bollocks.

That’s right, Adam Smith* has produced a new report that stating clearly that these sin taxes don’t work, and that the only ones benefitting are the tax-collecting Government. And the bootleggers.

The new Scottish levy- which will make the ­cheapest bottle of wine cost upwards of £4.69, and a four-pack of lager at least £3.52 – is supposed to reduce hospital admissions and deaths as a result of encouraging lower levels of consumption. The policy is backed by research from Sheffield University's alcohol research group, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government to examine the impact of the policy.

Researcher Dr John Holmes, told BBC Radio Scotland that "a 50p minimum price would lead to an overall reduction in consumption of 5.5%. So harmful drinkers' consumption would fall by more than 10%, whereas moderate drinkers would see their consumption fall by just 2.5%."

"In terms of how much extra spending that would mean, harmful drinkers would have to spend over £120 extra a year on their alcohol, whereas moderate drinkers would spend just £8 a year more," he added, happy that his local offy in Sheffield would not be raising prices.

However, world-leading not-for-profit thinktank the Adam Smith Institute begs to differ. Economists there claim that, not only do sin taxes not work, they are unnecessary and “force the poor to pay for the government’s mishandling of public finances.” Stern stuff.

In fact, they claim that “research has shown that previous rises in cigarette tax have made only 2.3% of smokers quit, with the other 97.7% just paying more in tax.”

But the reason they are condemning the practice is because of the disproportionate effect on those with the lowest incomes. If the average smoker spends £1660 a year on cigarettes, that is a massive 20% of the income of those in the bottom 10% income bracket. Minimum alcohol pricing is also deeply regressive, only affecting the cheaper drinks consumed by the poor.  The report claims that “punishing poor people for enjoying a drink or a cigarette exacerbates poverty and treats the poor like children who need to be controlled by the state.”

Chris Snowdon, author of the report and Adam Smith Institute fellow, says “campaigners for sin taxes and minimum pricing often claim that “healthy citizens” are forced to bear the cost of other people’s lifestyles. In fact, the evidence shows that smokers take less from the communal pot than the average Briton and the money raised from alcohol duty comfortably pays for any burden drinking places on public services. If the aim of policy is to make individuals pay their way, the government should slash the beer tax and subsidise cigarettes. We are not seriously suggesting the government does this, but if politicians insist on increasing taxes on these products, they should admit that the purpose is to raise revenue. Essentially the government is forcing the people who are least likely to live to extreme old age to pay for the escalating costs of an ageing population.”

So there you have it. The Scottish Government is more likely to raise oodles of cash than save the lives of winos. They probably think it’s a win win...

*not the scapegoat who got fired over cosying up with News International. This Adam Smith is an economist from the 1700s. He is actually dead now, but there is a Institute named after him where they do the report writing.

TOPICS:   Travel


  • Zeddy
    As long as the extra money goes to A&E depts in hospitals to pay for the "revellers" they see on a far too routine basis, what's the problem?
  • Old M.
    If alcohol is so bad for health and costs the govt/public money overall, why not just do the same as we do with most other drugs - illegal or by prescription if appropriate.
  • The B.
    They've got to pay for the iPad's they're putting in primary schools somehow.
  • Adam S.
    Jesus! Do you seriously have to tell people who I am? I'm on your fucking money.
  • John
    @ adam smith No your not. Your ugly mug is on an English £20 not a Scottish one.
  • Adam S.
    I was on a Scottish £50 so fuck you John.
  • Stu_
    Firstly, it's not a tax. That's one of the arguments pubs are making and they need to learn it's not a fucking tax, it's a minimum price. The Government doesn't actually get any more money (well, OK, VAT, but it's hardly going to make much difference). And as for smoking, that's bullshit. There's a lot less smokers than there was 25 years ago when I originally started smoking. Why? Because it's too fucking expensive! Not to mention you can't smoke anywhere.
  • John
    fuck your right - old clydesdale £50. I humbly apologise !
  • Adam S.
    No problem John. At least you remembered me.
  • Alan
    It's ok, just go the homebrew route instead. They can't price that by the unit.
  • spencer
    @ Alan Damn right. And for those who want a cheap way to get shit-faced, follow these 4 simple steps... 1. Buy a sachet of sterilizer and cider yeast (£1 each off amazon/ebay), you'll need to pop to Asda/Tesco and buy a 5ltr bottle of water (90p) and buy 5 cartons of value apple juice (55p each) 2. Pour the water away, and sterilize the bottle. 3. add your apple juice and yeast and a small cup of dissolved sugary water 4. Cut a very thin slit in the lid and place it back on. Let it sit on a windowsill/airing cupboard for a couple of weeks. There you go... homebrew cider. This comes in at about 6% a.b.v (depending on how much dissolved sugar you add). You can reuse the yeast sediment about 10 times. Once purchased your only outlay is 5 litres of apple juice a time which costs £2.75 - this works out about 31p a pint. If you wanna get proper skanky with it, you can make prison homebrew by freeze distilling it and make yourself something called applejack. Never tried but it's very popular with those at her majesty's pleasure so I'm told... If you want a more in depth guide, search for 'turbo cider'... (i'd suggest you do!)
  • Jeffrey
    @John Scottish money isn't real money it's like Monopoly money. It doesn't have to be accepted even in Scotland yet English notes do
  • Adam S.
    @Jeffrey It is real money - it's just not legal tender. Literally everybody knows the difference.
  • Toby L.
    The report claims that “punishing poor people for enjoying a drink or a cigarette exacerbates poverty and treats the poor like children who need to be controlled by the state.” Are these the same poor people who live in government funded properties, receiving government pocket money whilst the government tries to coax them into doing something useful with their lives? I can see why they feel they need to be respected as adults.

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