Prohibition and Taxes: Not for Your Health or Wealth, Just Because They Can

Prohibition and Taxes: Not for Your Health or Wealth, Just Because They Can

Like the terrier who won’t release the slipper in its jaws, politicians and health charities can’t save themselves from alcohol and soda prohibition. It is a current topic now and will be for years to come.

The left doesn’t seem to like the working classes relaxing. Six figure-earning politicians and doctors telling four figure income earners how to live their lives.Their method of spoiling the party is to lobby for higher taxes, or for government setting the price for alcohol.

Minimum pricing for a unit of alcohol is no more than a tax on the poor. The minimum price of a bottle of 9 unit wine would be £4.05, and an eight unit can of high alcohol beer would be £3.60. The perverse situation would be that cider by volume could in theory be more expensive than a bottle of Bollinger champagne.

Sheffield University has produced a much criticised paper claiming deaths from alcohol will reduce by 860 people a year, and hospital admissions by 29,900. For example in December 2012 they were forced to retract figures they had supplied to the BBC’s Panorama program.  

“..due to human error, figures they produced specifically for the programme Old, Drunk and Disorderly? broadcast on 10th September 2012 were incorrect.  The figures are in fact 4-5 times lower..”

Garbage in, garbage out.

Minimum pricing of alcohol was tried in British Columbia and after failing it just ended up with proponents calling for a higher minimum price and even more money from hard working Canadians.

Scotland banned multi-buy discounts in October 2011. This where you “buy one get one free” or, for example if a bottle of wine is priced at £3.50 and you can buy three for £10.

Two years later these academics found it “did not reduce alcohol purchasing.”

In Australia, the former centre/left administration of Kevin Rudd increased the taxation on bottles of ‘Alcopops’ in 2009. These are fruit flavoured wine or spirits.

As reported by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), consumption did drop amongst the less affluent, but enterprisingly, others either went to the liquor store for a bottle of spirits and had a few sharpeners before going out (pre-loading) or surreptitiously hid a bottle in a handbag or a jacket to top-up their bar-bought drink. Alcohol consumption stayed unchanged and the IPA also noted that illegal drugs were consumed more as a substitute.

The IPA also remarked that “..there was no reduction…in hospital admissions.” Also “..behavioural taxes are regressive” and thus hit the poor the hardest.

I find it difficult to believe that problem drinkers will cut back. They will either make cut backs elsewhere in their budget or possibly go the black market, buy illegal alcohol or in some cases lead to more aggressive begging.

While we are enjoying the Antipodean summer, New Zealand’s doctors and health charity warriors are now pushing for more: 

“We are a group of researchers and public health doctors… ending the sale of sugar sweetened beverages (sugary drinks) from New Zealand… the tide of evidence which implicates sugary drinks with… common diseases is so strong now that ending the sales of these products is justified.”

Yes the prohibition of soda. It will not happen overnight, but the salami slicing towards virtual prohibition has a few arrows in its quiver, including:

·         raising the price of sugary drinks through taxes;

·         restricting sales and advertising;

·         implementing sugary drink free policies in workplaces and public institutions;

·         legislating graphic warning labels on products.

They want to rid the whole of the Pacific region of soda by 2030.

It seems the full armoury of tobacco control has been mobilised. Not only are your rights to be curtailed, but you will be paying more in taxes too, with the poor hit the hardest as they spend disproportionately more on food and drink than the rich.

The nanny state has yet to learn its lesson from the “fat tax” in Denmark, where any food containing more than 2.3 percent saturated fat – including basic foods like milk, butter and cheese – were taxed at a higher rate. Soda was next on the shopping list.

In November 2012 the tax was repealed just after a year for being so universally loathed. Consumption did not go down as people instead visited adjoining Sweden and Germany. Consequently it led to unemployment too with 1,300 job losses.

Taxation and prohibition, even in moderation, encourage the black market and criminality.

There really is something nauseously hypocritical about liberals taxing the poor. Not only on their simple luxuries but particularly on their basic foods too. The well heeled and well remunerated dictating “for your own good”. It never in practical terms seems about improving health but rather simply “because we can.”