Punishing the Majority: Problems with Alcohol Policy in UK

John C. Duffy and Christopher Snowdon, June 2014
Alcohol policy in Britain and many other countries aims to reduce per capita alcohol consumption in the belief that this will inevitably reduce heavy and harmful drinking. The cornerstone policies of this approach are advertising bans, licensing restrictions and higher taxes. As researchers have long recognised, this theory is deeply flawed and has little predictive power. Per capita alcohol consumption largely depends on the amount of heavy drinking in a population, not vice versa. The mathematical model is simply wrong. Numerous real world examples, including the UK in recent years, show that alcohol-related harm does not necessarily correlate with overall alcohol consumption. Alcohol policy would be more effective and equitable if it targeted excessive drinkers, alcoholics and those who require help, rather than the whole population.
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