back to article Junk science and booze tax - a study in spin

Putting the price of alcohol up to a minimum of 40p a unit would keep 41,000 people a year out of hospital, save the NHS £116m a year, and avoid 12,400 cases of unemployment, a report from Sheffield University claimed last week. These appear to be remarkably precise predictions. The government used the report - widely quoted in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Government funds junk report to create junk conclusions to support junk law/policy (said junk law/policy has one of only two purposes, look good in media (get them s&m freaks/peados/immigrants/terrorists/mentally ill people), or get more tax to redistribute to their friends). Havn't seen that before.

  2. Flugal

    Bad Science

    Ben Goldacre's excellent book, Bad Science, is well worth a read on the subject of misused or misunderstood "evidence".

    He is pleasingly scathing of Gillian McKeith too, e.g. "Gillian McKeith, or to give her her full medical title, Gillian McKeith", which can be no bad thing.

  3. Paul Taylor

    A glass of red wine for me, then.

    > "statistically significant reduction of all causes of mortality ... for moderate drinking." Moderate is defined as men who drink between 29g and 43g daily, and women between 14g and 29g daily. Respectively, that's about three pints of beer for men, and a couple of glasses of wine for women. Per day.

    What!? I can't drink that much beer - I'll be up all night!

  4. Nick Kew

    yeah, right

    That'll be why Scandinavian countries with hugely expensive booze have so much less^H^Hmore of an alcohol problem than, say, Italy?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Clever researchers!

    They know that whatever happens, their report will be utterly ignored by the government.

    The Gov't will then go on to claim it backs up their assertions- whatever the report actually said- and then legislate their assess off, get knocked back, then get something far away from London to cock up so they can slip the new anti-alcohol legislation into an update of the Fisheries Act.

    I can see no reason for this extra tax other than to raise money to fund whatever new sinkhole they're going to drop my money down next.

  6. GettinSadda

    We all need to know this!

    >"Four out of five cohort studies showed statistically significant reduction

    >of all causes of mortality between 15 per cent and 25 per cent for

    >moderate drinking." Moderate is defined as men who drink between

    >29g and 43g daily, and women between 14g and 29g daily.

    1 UK alcohol unit is 8g of alcohol.

    So, the studies clearly show that there are very significant health benefits from drinking between 1.75 and 3.6 units for a woman, or between 3.6 and 5.4 units for a man - daily.

    However, from

    "The Government’s recommended daily unit guidelines are up to 2-3 units for a woman and up to 3-4 units for a man. "

    This means that for the best health benefits we need to be pretty much maxing out on the government's recommended limits!

  7. David Hicks

    Yay! Puritans!

    Why is it that the public sphere is full of puritans?

    I know that fearmongering, banning stuff and generally going off on a rant about some less than perfect section of society is seen a s a good way to garner votes *and* raise taxes, but imagin how popular a politician would be that said:

    "we have evidence that not only is moderate drinking not bad for you, but that's it's far better for your health than not drinking at all, as a result we'll be dropping the tax on booze by a half and setting up counselling course for those that feel they can't partake ion the odd drop or two for fear of enjoying themselves once in their dull lives"

    Announce that sort of thing and the British public would probably forgive you for being a serial puppy-murderer.

  8. Michael
    Thumb Down

    This is not overly surprising.

    With the recent cuts in research funding, who'd want to publish a paper disagreeing with the government and watch their grant suddenly shift to a more "respectable" department?

  9. Phil


    Excellent! I'm going to immediately double my alcohol intake... or is that halve... or...

    to hell with it, let's grab a pint.

    Mine's the one with two bottles

  10. DavCrav


    Let me get this straight: a minimum pricing of 40p/unit would mean that beer (2-3 units) is 80p-£1.20/pint, wine (~12 units) is about £5/bottle, and a 700ml bottle of spirits (28 units) is £14. That's fairly close to what you pay for spirits, a bit more than the minimum price for (bad) wine, and about the price of cans in shops. Nothing in pubs would change, since we're way over that price, and things would be slightly higher in supermarkets.

    A few weeks ago I posited the theory that supermarket alcohol is a Giffen good; that is, the higher it's price (up to a point) the more people will buy. Here's the theory: I want a certain amount of alcohol per week. I can buy cans at a shop for £1 or beer in pubs for £2. (Numbers changed and simplified for illustrative purposes.) I have £30 and I want twenty pints/week, so I spend £10 in a supermarket and £20 in a pub, to get my twenty pints.

    Now suppose that an interfering government sets minimum pricing of £1.50, and so the pub remains unchanged and the supermarket price increases by 50%. I won't increase my budget (we're in a recession after all) and so I switch, and consume all twenty pints from a supermarket.

    Net result: all pubs shut, supermarkets boom with increased profits. Well done, Labour.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Duh !

    Doubling the price of cars will reduce the number of road accidents because no one will be able to afford a vehicle.

    Conversely, increasing the price of electricity and heating fuel will increase pollution and ruin the environment because everyone will be chopping down trees and burning them to keep warm.

    Where can I pick up my honorary Ph.D. ?

  12. Rich Silver badge

    Full disclosure required

    > In one meta study cited: "Four out of five cohort studies showed statistically significant

    > reduction of all causes of mortality between 15 per cent and 25 per cent for moderate

    > drinking." Moderate is defined as men who drink between 29g and 43g daily, and women

    > between 14g and 29g daily.

    Was this the only meta study which addressed the subject? And if not, how many came to a similar conclusion, no conclusion, or did not conclude this?

  13. Saul Dobney

    Read part B

    Read part B. The data they use is up-to-date and much better than for part A in terms of use for estimating price elasticities (though mind you GHS and EFS are both self-reported studies, albeit very long term and well regarded). The Neilsen supermarket data will be live and real. I can't comment on the results, but at least the data for this half is better.

  14. Iain

    Crackpot Idea

    Here's mine:

    All alcohol is priced by the unit, like petrol being priced by the litre/gallon.

    Or what about no specifically alcoholic drinks are sold, alkl drinks are non-alcoholic and then you buy special 'alcohol tablets' which you dissovle in the drink of your choice to make it alcohol. 1 tablet = 1 unit and costs 40p.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Bad counting plus bad science?

    Sounds like the report is only counting some of the costs and benefits.

    What about jobs lost due to closed pubs, breweries? Lost income for waiters and waitresses due to reduced bar purchases? Increased costs / decreased pleasure for drinkers? Decreased lifespans for would-be moderate drinkers?

    Only counting costs and benefits for one party (the health industry = government expense) and ignoring others (individuals and private industry) is an elementary economics mistake.

    (I'm not an economist, and I don't play an economist on TV, but I did actually read a book about economics once...)

  16. Luther Blissett

    @David Hicks

    > Why is it that the public sphere is full of puritans?

    The music of the heavenly spheres struck a bum note - actually a whole bum symphony - between 1956 and 1972 when Pluto went thru Virgo. The puritans born then are now in positions of power. Their time will pass. Their influence will wane like the thinning Moon setting down on the ocean to sleep. In the meantime we have to put up with their small-minded little schemes.

  17. Dr. Mouse


    RE: "Net result: all pubs shut, supermarkets boom with increased profits. Well done, Labour."

    Have you not noticed that most govt efforts in any area which affect the local pub are directed TOWARDS closing them all down.

    The most prominent example of this I can cite is the smoking ban. The govt forces all pubs to spend huge amounts of money on ventilation systems, then ban smoking. Therefore said ventilation systems are useless, added to which a large proportion of people stop going to the pub during the week.

    In my local, the majority of the patrons smoke. The ban has not encouraged more non-smokers to come to the pub, and has stopped many who came down to socialise during the week to stop. Hence the pub is virtually empty on week-day nights, when it used to be fairly busy, and custom on weekends has stayed about the same. Hence they are struggling very badly.

    As to your point: "I won't increase my budget (we're in a recession after all) and so I switch, and consume all twenty pints from a supermarket.", thats what will happen, the govt knows it, but the govt doesnt want pubs to exist any more so dont care.

  18. Suburban Inmate

    Of course price has little or no effect!

    It's not the price that booze is sold at, but WHERE it's sold that influences people's drinking habits.

    In this case a corrupt, over-taxed, socially rotten, totalitarian, culturally backward, neo-stalinist post-industrial piss pit.

    "Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

    H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

  19. Dave


    ... yeah my Dad was recommended by his doctor to enjoy a glass or two of wine for "medicinal purposes" :) I follow the same advice, though not every day - guess I should step up - it's for my health after all!

    Good job I have a bottle of Malbec open back at home *slurrrrrp* :)

  20. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    What's the problem..?

    Compared with Climate Science, this is a very well justified and moderate study.

    And the obfuscation which is currently being put up to keep justifying the CO2 global warming hypothesis, while human CO2 output rises to record levels and global temperature falls, is going to cost us a lot more than 2p on a pint of beer....

  21. John

    health benefits

    I'm teetotal because I hate the taste of alcoholic drinks. almost makes me wish I could drink

  22. Sam Turner
    Thumb Down

    Physician, heal thyself.

    What exactly are we supposed to make of such drearily loaded terms as "statistical confections" and "sheepishly", or the sardonic use of inverted commas around "evidence"?

    If you are going to criticise a study, criticise the study. Don't spend the first page wanking on like an internet warrior. There is nothing wrong with meta-analysis and there is nothing wrong with including studies that are not perfectly matched if you include (sheepish) provisos. Sneering at this is just plain ignorance and undermines the rest of the article (well ... probably ... I couldn't bring myself to read any further ... please accept my apologies if you did eventually get to some sort of point).

  23. John Savard

    The Real Problem that anecdotal evidence is out of fashion. Pretty much "everyone knows" that alcohol use can lead to men getting into fights, beating their wives, or even committing rape, and, furthermore, that most of the trouble caused by using alcohol comes out of its use by members of the lower classes. (This does, however, exclude problems related to impaired or drunken driving; the upper classes are about as likely to do that as anyone else, and the lower classes are less likely to own cars.)

    So high prices for alcohol on the one hand, and draconian penalties for impaired driving on the other hand, are the obvious way to go, and scientific studies are hardly needed.

    Of course, countries with a sufficiently poor lower class have to weigh the costs of medical care for those who misuse non-beverage products containing alcohol when considering how to tax liquor: this is a real problem here in Canada, but it may not be as much of a consideration in the United Kingdom.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK ain't the USA

    I this the quality of debate in Register or has everybody missed

    the important issue?

    Much of the "research" in the UK which both public and private enterprises

    rely on in order to make policy decisions uses USA data. Data from the USA

    is available, plentiful and cheap. So a penny-pinching and lazy company/government

    department will use it. The Americanisation of UK culture is not soley

    due to the strength of tha US music and film industries.

    I am old enough and experienced enough to have seen US data used to justify many

    policy decisions and some which are very odd indeed when viewed in the light of

    UK culture.

    This stretches across the whole gamut of UK culture. From the poor sod who

    has to dress as a cuddly toy at a UK fotball match because a USA study has

    shown that his presence will attract a family audience, all the way to the

    "Business Guru" who insists group hug-ins will improve office efficiency.

    These might work in the US but in the UK? The guy in the cuddly toy literaly

    gets pissed on and has all sorts of rubbish thrown at him and still UK footbal

    remains a male domain. In the office hug-in etc are resented by both males and

    females and produce no improvement in office efficiency.

    Think of anything which has been introduced since the '80s which appears an

    anacronism to UK culture and you'll more than likely discover that it

    originates from a study carried out in the US.

  25. N

    Junk Government

    Just the sort of crap that makes me want to go out & drink until I fall over, you can after all demonstrate anything with statistics & this government has a rather impertinent habit of selecting certain areas of society & targeting with some scare tactic.

    This is after all the same pack of tossers who declared that "all children are to be above average" referring to the standards achieved in schools, tell me how in Gods name can you ever achieve that?

    Well mr Brown & co, you havnt saved planet earth or convinced me & even though our currency is worthless junk, you can still buy table wine in France cheaper than petrol is here, hic.

    Cheers for fuck all (again)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Main reason for cutting drinking

    All this health talk by the government is a red herring. The whole point of cutting drinking in the UK is the vast cost to the NHS and police from the actions of the inebriated. Unless you're drinking seriously large quantities the health issue isn't heart disease or liver failure, it's fighting, falling over and drowning in your own vomit.

    These things cost millions - I would just rather the government came out with a "don't be a tw@t while drunk campaign" rather than more lies.

  27. Pete Silver badge

    It's not meant to be scientific

    It;s meant to be a prop - something the govt. can use to divert the blame when they decide to raise more taxes (the only thing they ever, really do) by increasing the duty on booze.

    As it is, saving £116 mil on the NHS is peanuts in the £90 Bn [source: The Independent] the govt. will spend on the NHS this year. The presumed "unemployed" who will be got back to work will just find a different box to tick, in order to keep claiming their disability and the number of people kept of out hospital is double-counting, as the NHS savings have already been declared.

    I wonder what the effect on raising the tax of booze would do to the drinks industry? For such a compendious report, you'd kinda hope that they spent a lot of effort researching and analyzing this fairly obvious aspect too (mea culpa - 4 pages in El Reg? TLDR, get it down to 1 page, guys).

  28. Sooty

    this will lead to more drinking

    Putting the price of beer up, will mean that people just buy it in bulk to get it slightly cheaper. I buy 24packs from the supermarket now, because it's 50p a can, but 4 packs, of identical beer, are about £1 a can.

    If the minimum price per unit is 40p, thats pretty much 80p, per can, before you start with transport, storage, etc which will always be cheaper in bulk.

    the net result, is that i am even less likely to buy small amounts of alcohol and will now, either go to france and fill my car with beer every so often, or i will buy the largest packs humanly possible to scrape as much off the price as i can.

  29. CABVolunteer

    Well, what do YOU suggest?

    By all means pick holes in the research, but do you accept that there is a considerable problem with alcohol abuse in the UK? As taxpayers we have to divert scarce resources in the NHS to patch up the victims; society in general, and families of victims in particular, suffer the direct consequences. But the first step, and perhaps the most important one, is to recognize that there is a problem and that we need to address it.

  30. Sweep


    Alcohol is THAT good for you? Awesome, where can I get my prescription doc I need a shot?

    As one of the above commentators already mentioned, the obscenely high government controlled prices on alcohol in Sweden and Norway just means that people are more likely to get boozed up at pre-parties before heading out. It also seems to result in more hard drug use- (one Norwegian heroin addict I met explained that it was cheaper to be a junkie than a drunk). it also means that these countries are far less likely to be visited by tourists, especially backpackers (£5 for .5l, really?!), despite the beautiful scenery and even more beautiful ladies.

    Decreased levels of crime they may have a point with, although this could also be achieved by decreased levels of piss-poor-policing in city centres on the weekends.

    Homebrew is the way forward anyway. I’ll never forget the day I first realised I could my own alcohol in a bucket in the house. Home-made mead is absolute ambrosia. *wipes away a tear.

  31. Peter Fox
    Thumb Up

    Excellent work

    Congratulations. It is articles like that this that make the Register unmissable.

    (Err... Is this article a meta-meta-meta study?)

  32. Justabloke
    Thumb Up


    ....the mythical "acoholic unit" which as we all know what a figure plucked out of the air....

  33. Steve

    Re: Main reason for cutting drinking

    "These things cost millions - I would just rather the government came out with a "don't be a tw@t while drunk campaign" rather than more lies."

    I'd prefer they came out with a "Don't be a twat while running the country" campaign. I think we'd save far more money that way and have fewer people feeling the need to drink away their memories of the week every Friday/Saturday night.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Well, what do YOU suggest?

    of course there are problems with alcohol in the UK, but laws already exist to deal with such things as violence and anti-social behaviour. rather than penalising responsible drinkers, a better solution might be to have more police on the streets in town centres and for people causing trouble to be slung in the cells for a night, then released without charge. along with sleeping behind bars, the earful many would get the following morning from family/partners/parents would go some way to deterring people's anti-social behaviour. the problem at the moment is that people can get away with acting like arses.

    the police can find huge numbers of manpower for events like football matches near me (mostly milling around for a few hours on overtime rates i presume?), but funnily enough are rarely seen late at night policing drunks leaving bars to keep the streets safe...

  35. Anonymous Coward

    @ John Savard 16.02

    "......... and the lower classes are less likely to own cars.)"

    Is that why they are always driving around in stolen ones then?

  36. David Hicks


    The first thing we need to do in this country (and this applies to many more areas than booze) is to stop the knee-jerk feelgood legislation.

    People are binge drinking and getting violent, and abusing alcohol. The government immediately responds by increasing tax because it *must* be the answer, obviously (studies show it doesn't help).

    Drugs can cause harm, so the best thing for society *must* be to ban all of them (despite the fact it drives profit into criminal gangs and leads to more problems than it solves).

    "Terrorists" want to attack the UK so the answer *must* be to detain people without trial and introduce ID cards (where even the police admit longer detention doesn't help and the laws get misapplied).

    All of these things need sensible examination and more than ten seconds thought, we need to look at what can actually help our society, not what immediately feels right.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Luther Blissett

    I don't believe all that astrology stuff myself but a few corrections are due anyway...

    George Walker Bush - b1946

    Gordon Brown - b1951

    Nicolas Sarkozy - b1955

    Angela Merkel - b1954




    Barack Hussein Obama II - b1961

    I could go on but you get the idea. It's the Pluto in Virgo generation who are on the cusp of assuming power. It remains to be seen how puritanical they are.

  38. Stevie


    Since I left the UK for foreign shores, the price of booze there has skyrocketed. This hasn't changed one jot (as far as I can tell) how much my old friends drink. It *has* changed how they go about obtaining their choice of tipple. A typical comment is "I can't afford to go down the pub anymore, so I get my beer wholesale and stay home".

    Bottom line: These studies may or may not predict how consumption of alcohol can be steered, but enacting law on the basis of them absolutely guarantees the demise of the English public house.

    And when they go, what's the point?

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ John Savard

    "most of the trouble caused by using alcohol comes out of its use by members of the lower classes. (This does, however, exclude problems related to impaired or drunken driving; the upper classes are about as likely to do that as anyone else, and the lower classes are less likely to own cars.)"

    You should come over here and live. You'd fit in well with the rest of the petty minded little englanders that inhabit this island.

    And I'm afraid you're wrong about the 'upper' classes, at least in this country - they just have different anxieties and swallow different pills to sooth their fears.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Well, what do YOU suggest?

    Well how about funding research that doesn't predetermine the outcome for a start?

    The abuse of alcohol is a big problem but adjusting the price is not going to solve it.

    Have you seen how expensive night club drinks are? Teens still get p*ssed.

    Late teens and early twenties have a high disposable income - they will just pay more.

    The problem is one of attitude bred into them by the culture that has developed in the UK social scene. The only way to tackle it is make it socially unacceptable (like they have with drunk driving and smoking to a large extent) to be staggering round the place at chucking out time so sick you can't stand up and puking all over the place.

    Sheesh - and people think that is a "good time".

  41. EvilGav


    It used to be about dispassionately viewing the subject and drawing a hypothesis from the evidence observed.

    Now the epidemiologists are in charge, but they don't understand what they're doing.

    Drawing conclusions from short-term studies of a foreign population, and relate them to long-term consequences in the UK are absurd at best and down-right stupid at worst.

  42. Nano nano

    Abstinence by choice ?

    I understood that the alleged health benefits of C2H5OH consumers over abstainers could be put down to many 'abstainers' actually being off the pop due to fairly serious illnesses that precluded alcohol intake - and led to them being, erm, unhealthy.

  43. Tony Green

    Even more holes in the "evidence"

    A friend from Nottingham forwarded this piece that was published by the local Camra branch on the subject, quoting research by (amongst others) Professor Richard Doll (the man who worked out the connection between smoking and lung cancer, even though he expected his research to show that smoking was actually beneficial).

    The original publication in Nottingham Drinker (large download also includes the graph sowing how relative mortality changes according to alcohol consumption.

    NHS 21 units guideline “defies the evidence” says member of Royal College of Physicians

    The NHS campaign that recommends that we drink no more than 21 units of alcohol (about 10 pints of 4% beer) a week is based on the theories of Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians. However, a member of that same institution, Dr. Ian Gooding, told Nottingham Drinker:

    “Like Gilmore, I am a gastroenterologist and see people with alcohol-related disease every working day. I am certain from my experience that the bulk of alcohol-induced disease is caused by spirits and strong cheap lagers consumed at home. “The research to confirm this has not been done, however we do have hard evidence on the association between quantity

    of alcohol consumed and mortality from the British Doctors’ Study,[1] which showed a U-shaped curve. “Those who drank 18 units weekly had a markedly lower mortality than teetotallers. Above 18 units the curve slowly rises so that teetotallers had the same mortality as those who drank 63 units weekly. It has been said that the national guidelines on safe alcohol consumption were ‘plucked out of the air’, I would go further – they defy the evidence! “Gilmore’s proposals will lead to pub closures, increasing home drinking and social isolation (especially in rural areas) which will increase mental health problems. CAMRA needs to tackle Gilmore & Co, aware of the weakness of the evidence behind their arguments.”

    So what do apas, the Alcohol Problems Advisory service think of all this? Executive Director Nick Tegerdine told Nottingham Drinker:

    “Re the NHS units campaign, I think the whole system is pants! So do many others, and the current campaign has been discussed this last month at the most senior level within the Primary Care Trusts and the Crime and Drugs partnership and some felt it was not at all helpful. The current campaign is fatally flawed in so far as it provides factually inaccurate information”.

    “The debate gets really interesting when you compare the ‘safe and sensible’ limits as defined by responsible authorities in other countries. “As a general response my line is ‘if you never drink more than 21 units (14 for women), never go out in the sun, never eat anything other than organic lettuce and certainly never a rare steak and cheese made with unpasteurised milk, and never have unprotected sex you might live a bit longer but why would you want to?” If you’re really lucky (and if my memory serves me correctly) you can do all of those things in the same

    day and survive! “To be fair there is health evidence to do with increasing risk with increasing dose; it’s fairly well regarded stuff, but there are so many other variables (pre-existing liver damage; ethnic origin; body mass, interaction with other drugs etc.). At apas, we don’t worry too much about ‘units and limits’. Most of our client facing staff report service users drinking at least ten times those amounts (but no one is saying that it’s doing them any good, there are limits!)”.

    So there you have it - it seems that on 63 units a week - that is about four and a half pints a day of 4% beer - a male drinker can live as long as teetotaller! (Unfortunately I have no

    data for women drinkers, as the research simply has not been done.) And what’s more, if you drink 18 units a week, you will actually live longer than a teetotaller! So shouldn’t the NHS be

    telling us that we must drink 18 units a week in order to live longer? As we at Nottingham Drinker have always thought, beer is good for you!

    Beer is also recognised as a rich source of Vitamin B and of antioxidants, substances believed to play a part in preventing cancer, and it has been said that it plays a part in preventing gallstone formation, osteoporosis, diabetes and stomach ulcers. [2]

    We should, of course, ensure that our diets and exercise regimes do not allow us to become overweight due to drinking that amount - but, that withstanding, drink to your good health!

    A final point to consider - should the NHS be spending thousands on their anti-drinking advertising campaign? Is this what our 4p. extra beer duty is being spent on? Could not the money be better spent on staff and equipment?


    1. Doll R, Peto R, Hall E, Wheatley K, Gray R.

    Mortality in relation to consumption

    of alcohol: 13 years’ observations on male British doctors. BMJ. Oct. 8; 1994

    2. The Benefits of Moderate Beer Consumption, The Brewers of Europe 2004

    (downloadable from

  44. M Bancroft

    What has El Reg been drinking?

    You quote a range 29g to 43g of Ethanol per day for men and then go on to claim that this is equivalent to drinking three pints of "beer" a day. If we take the upper value of this range, 43g, and convert it to a volume (the density of EtOH is 0.789g/ml) we get 54.5ml, now three pints is 1704ml (3 times 568) which means that El Reg's "beer" has a *maximum* strength of 3.2% by volume. Whatever the clarity of thinking this beer gives it wouldn't be popular down my local boozer.

    Now whilst I whole heartedly deplore the wrong conclusions being drawn from scant and unsuitable evidence to back up knee-jerk headline grabbing legislation of the sort that NuLabour crave so deeply I cannot help but think you are deliberately distorting the evidence and attempting the colour the readers thoughts. This is beneath you lot over at El Reg towers, I expected more.

  45. Stewart Haywood
    Thumb Down

    Validation of models.

    In the main, my experience is with modeling physical porcesses. I have, however, looked at modeling of human behaviour when it comes to telecom's traffic.

    With any model, the really interesting bit is the validation of the model. To do this with this type of model, it is best to go back in history and use the model to predict the last 50 years. They have not done this. The model validation (section 4.2 page 165) takes about half a page. The model, thay say, agrees with the Home Office analysis for 2008. Wow, what a surprise.

    I have only had a quick look, but it looks as though they have used brand price sensitivity to come to conclusions on overall consumption price sensitivity. This is a bit iffy because of the adictive nature of booze. At one end of the spectrum we have the full blown alcoholic and at the othe we have Granny who can only get a good nights sleep after a couple of glasses of sherry. With a price change, I can see granny going for a cheaper brand but not giving up or going to a single glass.

    Overall, I think that the report contains sufficient BS to baffle most political brains.

  46. Neoc

    Being kind

    "Overall, I think that the report contains sufficient BS to baffle most political brains"

    From the sound of it, the alphabet would be enough to baffle a UK politician.

    Which is not to say ours are any better, of course.

  47. Marvin the Martian

    Quote mining in action.

    <<"Reviews of demand models from 1989 and 1990 in the UK found that the demand for beer, wine, and spirits was generally price-inelastic", they write, undermining the entire point of the excercise.>>

    No, it means they don't agree with the now 20y old models.

    If you look at a separate sentence you can always cut it from the context and make it mean something completely different. [Now, is this remark about what you did to the paper, systematically, or me to your review?]

  48. alan
    Thumb Down

    29g Is Three Pints?

    "29g and 43g daily, and women between 14g and 29g daily.

    Respectively, that's about three pints of beer for men, and a couple of glasses of wine for women. Per day."

    A pint is 569ml, average strength is say 5% (maybe 4% now) which is 2.84 units or 28.4g therefore if the beer is any normal strength you can have 1 pint not 3.

    To have 3 pints you have to be drinking tesco value larger at 2%, which is about 11.4g per pint.


    Even at 4% 2 pints is over 45g.

    Good artical overal

  49. Anonymous Coward

    "Won't somebody think of the children?"


    That's followed up with an odd assertion that's so completely unrelated to any of the research, one can only presume it was designed for the benefit of Government spin doctors:

    "There is also evidence to suggest that such a policy may be acceptable to many members of the community."


    "Many", as everybody is no doubt aware, is a noun meaning "a large number". Or, as Terry Pratchett fans the world over will know, it is what a Troll reaches after counting to three (as in the footnote on page 132 of "Men At Arms" where it gives the traditional Troll 'count' as one, two, three, many....)

    Given the threat to Humanity posed by the hordes of uncontrollable drinkers enjoying a quiet pint of beer/lager or glass of wine/spirits in their local pub or the privacy of their own home (as opposed to the charming and delightful little underage darlings in their hoodies and "urban camo" loitering on street corners and in other public places), this 'policy' would appear to give "many members of the community" the right to step in and demand the closure of anywhere "they" deem unsuitable due to the sale of alcohol... like the killjoy morons who want several pubs in the Hastings area closed down due to "alcohol-induced abuse" by patrons (or was it the "late night music"? Can't quite remember which excuse they used last time).

  50. RichyS
    Paris Hilton

    Stating the bleeding obvious

    "There is low quality but demonstrable specific evidence to suggest that minimum pricing might be effective as a targeted public health policy in reducing consumption of cheap drinks."

    Well, of course it fecking will. If you have minimum pricing so that there are no more cheap drinks, then of course the consumption of cheap drinks is going to go down. Pretty much to zero, I'd have thought.


    Paris, 'cos she ain't cheap, either.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    I know where they live!

    Those idiots at Sheffield work in the same building as me (different department though). Might have to go pay them a visit.

  52. Michael Nielsen

    It really doesn't matter

    They claim they want the alcohol consumption down, the people where alcohol is a real problem are people who are addicted to it, and these people would rather starve, live in the streets, freeze to death, than to miss out on their "Fix", and thus even if you were to raise the costs by 100pounds per unit, they'd still find a way to afford their fix.. It will have absolutely no effect, and all the policy makes know this.

    But they also know if they raise the taxes there will be hell to pay, however, arguing that this "Tax" is for the health of the general public, is something that is impossible to argue against, and thus they have increased their funding for the state, without real opposition.

    I am a staunch anti-alcohol and anti-smoking person, I do not drink nor smoke, mainly due to child hood traumer related to alcholic people trying to literally kill my mother, however, I do not support this kind of propeganda because like so much else, it is not based in fact. I believe in educating people about the effects, and letting people make informed choices, rather than trying to use politics and taxes to "force" people to do something, because it has zero effect. I also believe in there should be room for everyone, that is non-smoking areas where I can go in a pub, resturant, or what ever, and smoking areas for those that enjoy that. If someone wants lungcancer, who am I to argue? I can tell them what may happen, but they're a grown person, and thus their choice, however, I have a right to ask people not to smoke near me.

    In Denmark they have such taxes, not as bad as in sweden, but what happens, Danish breweries export beer to Germany, just south of the border, Danes, drive up to 300km, with trailers, and buy the beer and import it, with a limit of about 108 cartons of beer, or around 324 pints, per person. Considering the climate debate, and androgenic climate changes claims, this is the most stupid arrangement that could be made, first we ship the beer 300km in trucks to Germany, then people drive up to 300km down to pick it up, and drive back again to consume it, which is up to 600km car transport and 300km in trucks, how environmentally sound. I buy soft drinks because of a sugar duty in denmark (interestingly enough I only drink sugar free drinks), and I have a saving, after fuel, etc of around 100-300 (1000-3000dkr) pounds for a single trip.

    Studies like this is an example of what my old statistics professor proved to us in my university mathematics class, you can use statistics to prove ANYTHING, it just depends on your point of view, and interpretation of data, as well as selecting the correct base samples. If you want to find something, then you will, which is why sciencetists are supposed to be taught not to have presumptions about their work, to avoid mis-interpreting data, which is something, I personally believe is happening in the climate debate, I've yet to see data that really supports the case of androgenic climate change, other than something which very well could just be a co-incidence.

    It seems that all countries want more money from their people, and they seem to invent things to increase duties, rather than taxes, because the general populace is not friendly towards taxes, but with the health, and climate hypes, these two things are clear and easy excuses for creating or increasing some duty.

  53. RW

    @ AC 16:17 GMT

    > ...the "Business Guru" who insists group hug-ins will improve office efficiency.

    Only those with blanc mange in lieu of brains thinks this, even in the Excited Snakes (aka the Benighted States). However, simple logic has never stopped the management caste from pushing forward such inane ideas.

    I used to be viewed as the office grinch because I opted out of the annual round of birthday celebrations. My reasoning? "Because I think it's inappropriate in the workplace, where we are thrown together out of necessity and some of us can fire and hire others of us."

    As the most scathing condemnation management had was the accusation that one had done something "inappropriate" (without ever telling us where to find the list of appropriate and inappropriate actions), my use in the aforementioned context had an element of true piquancy.

    This nonsense really has to stop. Where is the small boy to cry out loudly "the emperor has no clothes!"?

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