We’re taxing the life out of pubs – it’s time to give them a break

Things haven’t been going to well for the British pub industry. Across the country, thousands of pubs have been forced to shut their doors by high alcohol taxes, duties, and other business-unfriendly restrictions from the state.  Even the extended summer and World Cup this year provided little solace to the struggling industry.

Beyond the pain caused by the closing down of local institutions, this also represents a huge threat to the UK economy. According to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), pubs contribute around £23.1 billion each year. That’s not to mention the community role pubs often play.

While the business environment might be tough, up to a third of the cost of a pint beer can be accounted for by taxation. In effect, the Government has been pushing both an economically and culturally valuable institution to the wall, preventing the British local from diversifying and competing in an ever-changing market.

It was only two years ago that that supermarket alcohol sales overtook those of pubs. On top of high duties, publicans were, and still are, up against businesses that can afford to treat alcoholic drinks as “loss leaders”; supermarkets, for instance,  are able to sell drinks at a loss since they can make up for it in the sales of other complementary products.

On top of this, pubs are facing threats from demographic and cultural changes, such as millennials drinking far less than previous generations, or the rise in preference for healthier lifestyles.

Now, I wouldn’t be much of a free marketeer if I didn’t argue that curveballs like the competitive edge held by supermarkets or preferences changing with demographics should be welcomed. Usually, it’s exactly this kind of disruptive change in competition and tastes that stimulates healthy growth and diversification.

Why, then, hasn’t this been the case? Why do so many pub owners simply lock up and sell off in the face of competition, rather than shaking things up to meet new tastes and trump competition from stores?

The first reason may seem pretty obvious: it’s just not worth it. Selling beer to an ever-more-teetotal generation is hard enough without without having to raise the cost of a pint just to meet the tax requirements. With such high costs imposed by the state, and with a smaller consumer market to support them, it’s simply too expensive and risky for landlords to invest in trendier gimmicks for their pubs that might appeal to the new base.

Thankfully, it seems that this message has not gone unheard. In his Budget on October 29, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, froze duties on beer, spirits, and most ciders and announced a review of the current relief offered to small brewers. Such decisions will make life far easier for pub owners and brewers alike; Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, claimed that the freeze will “save brewers, pubs and pub-goers £110 million and secure upwards of 3,000 jobs that would have been lost had beer duty gone up.”

Moreover, the budget also offers to cut the business rates paid by small businesses (including pubs and bars) by a third. Like the frozen duty on beer and spirits, this is a policy that will be warmly welcomed by pub landlords across the country, who will now have more financial freedom to revamp their businesses, and experiment with new gimmicks and trends that can appeal to the new market.

But the focus should be on more than just a disaster averted; freezing duties and cutting business rates is great first step towards a more competitive, revitalised pub industry, but there are certainly more steps to be taken.

For example, policies such as cumulative impact zoning (CIZ), which enables local councils to reject license applications on the basis of alcohol-related harm reduction and local protection from disorderly patrons, make it harder for entrepreneurs to establish new pubs in areas where demand might call for them. With this policy being introduced with the Licensing Act of 2003, it’s high time for an update.

Rather than punishing pub landlords ex ante for crimes they assume their future patrons will commit, the state should instead relax and allow pubs and local communities to shape their own environment. It isn’t fair to simply assume a pub will bring crime and disorder, especially with the aforementioned sensible drinking habits of millennials.

In any case, we can accept this year’s budget as a win for the pub industry, who can now breathe a little easier with their belts loosened. However, if we really want to save the local, we have to constantly be searching for ways to give owners and entrepreneurs more freedom to set up shop and shake up the traditional model of the pub to fit the new generation.

Originally published at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/11/09/taxing-life-pubs-time-give-break/?WT.mc_id=tmgliveapp_iosshare_ArjsbDjFcR1w

How EU Protectionism opens doors for Post-Brexit Trade

While the EU is walking the plank on international trade, the UK is very well positioned to recognise and seize post-Brexit opportunities.

On 6 November, Italy’s government asked the European Commission to apply the “safeguard clause” on rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar in order to protect Italian rice growers. Protectionist measures against southeast Asian countries are not new and have been vehemently backed up by France, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Hungary and Romania.

The EU ‘safeguard clause’ hurts consumers across the EU bloc

Under the safeguard clause enshrined in the Treaty of Rome, when imports from a third country jeopardise the trade balance of an EU Member State, it can ask the European Commission to ‘remedy the situation’, or introduce trade barriers.

Such interventions have a single aim: to protect a specific group or class from competition. But by endorsing protectionism for the producers, it serves to  hurt consumers who are otherwise the main beneficiaries of free trade.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the third largest trading partner of the EU. In 2017, trade with the ASEAN resulted in the output of more than € 227,3 billion in goods. As part of this economic engagement, the European Union has been actively cooperating with both Myanmar and Cambodia and therefore using the agricultural imports, in particular rice, to feed the EU market.

Should the EU choose to act at the whim of Italian rice growers, it will strip consumers across the bloc of the opportunity to enjoy a great supply of rice and consequently favourable prices.

Post-Brexit UK could freely trade with Southeast Asia and many others

As of now, the UK has a trade deficit with Southeast Asia. In 2016, UK exports in goods and services to Southeast Asia estimated £13.6 billion and UK imports from the region amounted to £18.8 billion.

While it is of no surprise that Singapore as a former UK colony leads the region, Cambodia and Myanmar, next in the queue for the EU trade barriers, are important trade partners as well. In 2016, the UK imported £0,9bn in goods and services from Cambodia and £0,2bn from Myanmar.

Even though trade relations between the UK and Southeast Asia countries make up only for a small fraction of a crucially important economic engagement with the EU, they serve as a significant trade field to explore and examine.

Some of the potential cooperation channels are bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements between the UK and ASEAN countries. Moreover, once the UK has put the wind back in its sails and left the EU Single Market and the Customs Union, it will also be able to abolish all import tariffs on the goods it doesn’t produce, most of which exist in agriculture, including rice.

Brexit, therefore, represents a momentous opportunity that has a propensity to change the history of world trade and move the needle away from protectionism. By exiting the EU, the UK is not only saving its consumers from detrimental outcomes of the EU’s protectionism but also allows it to foster its cooperation with Southeast Asian countries and reclaim its heritage as a prime trading nation.

Originally published at https://www.speakfreely.today/2018/11/09/eu-protectionism-opens-doors-post-brexit-trade/?fbclid=IwAR1mq7XxBwI1tInq9KAcQcZRra-dydNltnDntk4Tof4T3Ss4mGJs6BFYq68

The internet of things needs freedom not government guidance

The Digital Single Market debate within the European Union is set to continue for years to come. Instead of planned policies, tech companies need freedom.

The Internet of Things describes the usefulness of connecting the internet with everyday devices. One of the hottest examples of such connected devices are of course mobile phones, but now cars are making their jump into the connected world.

But legal certainty stands in the way of moving quickly: in the European Union, the narrative is that manufacturers first need to settle on the technology they prefer, that being either WiFi or 5G. However, certain producers have already invested in either of those two, and are seemingly unwilling to give an inch until they are certain that they lost the battle.

In July, the German government released a position paper on the issue of these future technologies. Politico wrote:

“The German government is preparing to back the use of wifi-based technology to link up connected cars, arguing 5G technology isn’t yet mature enough to deliver.”

The paper that the German government released arguing that “industry should focus on technology that uses short-range, wifi-based signals”. As a response, some car makers came out in support of the government, while the manufacturers said that Berlin should back 5G technology instead.

The directory general of the European Commission is waiting to present a delegated act until the debate around the technology comes to a conclusion. Some 16 member states are already investing into roadside technologies for connected cars.

By regulating the means of technology that producers should prefer, EU member states aren’t only allowing for the rise of lobbying incentives on both sides, but they also making something easy appear unworkable.

This locking-in of a specific technology prevents the flexibility of markets in emerging technologies and discourages investment in R&D, which will likely result in European telecoms falling behind the quality of those in more liberal technology markets such as the United States and China.

In general, the principle of “why can’t we have both?” applies. Therefore, the following steps are necessary:

We need ends-based, rather than means-based, regulation of innovative technologies, to ensure that certain desired outcomes are achieved, but that innovation to achieve those outcomes are ensured. If a specific technology is stipulated in the short-run, due to concerns such as interference, provisions need to be made such that a newer technology would trigger a sunset clause in the technology specific regulation, and that competition in implementation is maintained.

Environments need to be created, similar to the FCA’s Sandbox in the UK, such that speculative investment in new innovation can be made in Europe, rather than simply the adoption of technologies developed abroad. Freeing new technologies from existing regulations is essential to allowing EU to become a home for disruptive experimentation. If politicians in Brussels are desperate to have a European Facebook, Google, or Amazon, this is what it should look out to do.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Consumer Choice Center criticises Chancellor’s plastic packaging tax

PACKAGING NEWS: The Consumer Choice Center’s (CCC) Fred Roeder believes the UK should not tax plastic packaging but enforce littering laws.

While applauding the decision to abandon plans for a ‘latte levy’, Fred Roeder, the London-based managing director of the Consumer Choice Center which represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe, criticised Philip Hammond’s tax plans.

“The good news is that the UK government dropped their plan for the ‘latte levy’ which would have penalised consumers who buy drinks during their commute or on the road,” he said. “The bad news is that the Conservative government did not pivot from fighting against plastics to actually enforcing existing littering laws.”

“The new plans to impose a tax on imported and locally manufactured plastic packaging will not significantly impact marine plastic pollution but only burden UK consumers with a new tax. Taxing plastic packaging penalises all consumers for the bad behaviour of a few who actually litter. Enforcing existing littering laws is the best domestic driver to lower the UK’s contribution to global pollution,” said Roeder

Roeder furthermore suggested that the UK’s marine pollution footprint was merely marginal: “Given that merely 0.1% of global marine plastic pollution is caused by the United Kingdom we should be more focused on how to make the main polluters such as China, India, and Indonesia enforce environmental standards and property rights.”

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Budget 2018: Industry responds

ENERGY LIVE NEWS: Plastic packaging tax won’t work

Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, Fred Roeder, said: “The good news is that the UK Government dropped their plan for the ‘latte levy’ which would have penalised consumers who buy drinks during their commute or on the road. The bad news is that the Conservative government did not pivot from fighting against plastics to actually enforcing existing littering laws.

“The new plans to impose a tax on imported and locally manufactured plastic packaging will not significantly impact marine plastic pollution but only burden UK consumers with a new tax. Taxing plastic packaging penalises all consumers for the bad behaviour of a few who actually litter. Enforcing existing littering laws is the best domestic driver to lower the UK’s contribution to global pollution.”

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Do you want to save the turtles? Don’t ban plastics – ban littering

Like any good Londoner, I used the fantastic summer weather to kayak from Limehouse to Hackney, discovering that part of the city by water.

As a fairly experienced river and sea kayaker, I was taken aback by how full of litter London’s waters are.

At around the same time, the national and global debate on how to tackle marine plastic pollution was gathering momentum, amplified by shocking pictures of turtles injured by straws and other plastics.

The EU has outlined its plans to outlaw single-use plastics, and the UK government has signalled that post-Brexit Britain will have a very simple approach: ban them. Besides the widely discussed plans to prohibit straws and plastic balloon sticks, the UK is also looking into banning single-use plastic cutlery and plates, while environment secretary Michael Gove appeared to suggest he was considering a ban on disposable nappies.

However, the EU and the UK government have both missed one crucial fact: just two per cent of total marine plastic pollution is caused by citizens of Europe and the US combined. The UK likely contributes around a tenth of one per cent to global marine pollution.

Embracing compostable products as the silver bullet is also not an honest approach. To reap the perceived benefit of compostable products, which typically cost more than traditional containers, we would need to ensure that the packaging will indeed be composted after use, and not littered or thrown into non-compostable trash.

Politicians seems to be confused. If the aim is to clean up our oceans, we should be trying to reduce litter, not banning the practical products some people throw away.

Walking across London Bridge, one dearly misses any clean – let alone recycling-friendly – way of getting rid of rubbish. The easiest way for London’s residents and many visitors is to drop trash on the street or in the river. No wonder that kayaking in the Thames is an unpleasant experience.

London heavily reduced the availability of rubbish bins due to the fear of terrorist attacks dating back to the era of the IRA. With the threat of terrorism still very much on the political radar, we simply do not have enough bins.

But there are ways of balancing safety with the city’s waste disposal needs.

Some places, such as the Tube, offer transparent plastic bags that ought to prevent bombs but still let people throw away their rubbish. During the Olympics, Boris Johnson increased the number of bins on the Tube by 25 per cent to cope with additional waste.

And this hasn’t been the only attempt to find creative ways to solve London’s litter problem. The innovative and bomb-proof Renew recycling receptacles (paid for by displaying digital ads to Londoners) introduced in 2012 were a great idea, but commercially flopped just one year after rollout.

Instead of trying to ban various plastics, policymakers should instead help consumers to dispose and recycle at a high degree. Modern recycling technologies allow us to reuse plastics once they have been disposed. Getting Londoners better access to rubbish bins and recycling facilities is the single best way to encourage them to use them.

At the same time, we should enforce anti-littering laws and fine those who break them, instead of punishing consumers who use single-use plastics and dispose of them responsibly.

That will clean up our streets and our rivers. But when it comes to the oceans, there is little point in symbolically focusing on the 0.1 per cent of marine pollution that the UK contributes – we should ask how to tackle the rest of it.

Developing countries with weak property rights and low environmental standards are the main cause for marine litter. Pushing internationally for stronger property rights in countries such as China, Indonesia, or Brazil, and helping them invest in better technologies, will do much more for sea turtles than banning balloon sticks from British birthday parties. Plastic isn’t the problem. Litter is. It’s time for politicians to realise that.

Fred Roeder is managing director of the Consumer Choice Center

This piece originally appeared in print in CityAM and can be found here: https://consumerchoicecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/cityam-2018-10-22-5bcd1073449bd.pdf

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

A ban on single-use plastics would hurt consumers. But would it really save the environment?

California’s already banned them. The European Union isn’t far behind, and the UK seems poised to follow suit. I’m talking, of course, about single-use plastics.

To many, this may warrant little fanfare. Who cares if we have to start sipping our gin and tonic through a paper or bamboo straw rather than a plastic one? Or if we have to find a new medium of eardrum-puncturing after conventional cotton buds are taken off the market? Issues such as these naturally seem incredibly trivial when compared to the global issue of plastic pollution, especially after we’re subjected to heart-wrenching videos of the effect of plastic on marine life.

The issue of plastic-pollution is, indeed, ever-present, and one that is deserving of our attention. But is a ban on single-use products truly a significant first-step towards cleaner oceans?

Unfortunately, no. The contribution of the UK – and the EU and US, for that matter – to global plastic pollution is extremely marginal. With countries like China, Indonesia, and the Philippines dumping gargantuan levels of plastic compared to Britain and Europe, Western bans on single-use items like straws can only ever be little more than superficial.

On top of this, is that many of the “green” alternatives are not necessarily “green” at all. The logic behind the ban on single-use plastics is that, in removing accessibility to such items, businesses will be forced to adopt reusable, recyclable, or compostable alternatives like paper, bamboo, or metal.

A hole in this logic, however, is that a product is only as recyclable or compostable as the infrastructure allows. Without ready and available access to recycling bins, the problem of littering and pollution will remain as present amongst “green” products as it has done with plastics.

We should also be careful not to forget that while certain “green” products might not be as pollutive when discarded, some actually require more fossil fuels to produce than their plastic alternative.

For instance, according to Fortune magazine, “manufacturing a disposable paper cup requires at least 20% more fossil fuel and almost 50% more electricity than a styrofoam cup does.”

It’s therefore rather clear that a ban on single-use plastics from either the UK or EU – or even both –  is unlikely to have any real impact on the global pollution issue. But while the ban might not be of much importance on a worldwide level, it’s certainly going to be noticeable back home.

While switching from plastic to paper might not get a second glance from many of us, to others, this is a change that represents a great deal of new expenditure for the bars, cafes and supermarkets that have to pay for a more expensive alternative.

For instance, after the US city of Seattle banned single-use plastic shopping bags, many store-owners saw their cost for bags increase from 40% all the way up to 200%. As a result of plastic bans like this, such businesses are often forced to make changes to account for the extra cost, either through reducing expenditure in other areas (sometimes resulting in layoffs) or by raising the cost of their products.

Thus, it’s likely that any ban on single-use plastics will prove costly to producers and consumers alike, all the while producing negligible results when it comes to actually reduce pollution.

To those with certain disabilities, the bans will be particularly hard-hitting. For those who lack the ability to bring a cup to their lips, plastic straws represent the best mode of accessibility to hot drinks. Alternative materials, such as bamboo or metal, sadly prove too hard and rigid for this use and can present their own health risks.

Ultimately, the ban on single-use plastics will place a great burden on both consumers and producers and will have little to show for it. This is a shame since far more effective solutions exist that would be far less damaging to consumer choice and accessibility.

One route which could be taken would be simply to improve British recycling infrastructure. Previously, much of our plastic waste has been exported overseas to countries like China to be recycled, since the UK lacks the plants and infrastructure to do it ourselves. China has now, however, placed restrictions on waste importation.

As a result, the UK should now strongly consider improving our own infrastructure, removing the need to export and providing an opportunity to considerably reduce our contribution to plastic pollution. While a ban on single-use products will burden consumers for little result, better recycling possibilities offer a far more efficient route to reduced waste.

Originally published at https://1828uk.com/2018/10/08/a-ban-on-single-use-plastics-would-hurt-consumers-but-would-it-really-save-the-environment/

British taxpayers ‘should not subsidise scaremongering anti-vaping laws’

EXPRESS: Jeff Stier, of the Consumer Choice Centre, a US consumer watchdog, said: “Both the US and UK are financing an organisation which for years has had problems with corruption and transparency, and the biggest part with transparency issues is the FCT.

“Its policies show that the WHO is fighting vaping in an unscientific way.According to Public health England there is virtually no effect for bystanders  bystanders because there is virtually no smoke. You can smell it, but you can also smell a perfume. And there is very little health risk to the user.

“From a scientific prospective, there is no reason why vaping shouldn’t be allowed in public buildings. There’s no smoke or second-hand smoke.

“Adult smokers should have access to a wide variety of products that meet their needs to help them not smoke cigarettes.”

“I’ve been to a recent meeting and they would not allow journalists, or members of the public or analysts to attend”, added Jeff Stier.

“It wasn’t that they wouldn’t  let us speak  – they wouldn’t even let us hear. “They’re deliberating policies that are affecting countries that we taxpayers are paying for, and

“In the US or UK you’d never get away with this transparency. Lack of transparency leads to bad policy. Transparency matters.”

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About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

Minimum alcohol pricing doesn’t work

Criticising the Welsh government’s decision to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, Bill Wirtz argues it is possible to curb consumer drinking through education rather than the heavy hand of the law.

There should, however, be no ambiguity about one point: the consumption of alcohol does bring health risks that all consumers should be aware of. Educational practices should promote and enable responsible drinkers without falling into blatant paternalism the likes of which will infantilise the Welsh consumer of their consumer choice.

In an effort to combat alcohol-related deaths, illnesses and injuries, the Welsh government has approved a law in June that will see the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol. Ahead of its introduction next year, this autumn the Welsh government will determine the minimum price companies will need to charge.

Wales is hardly re-inventing the wheel by introducing minimum-unit pricing. This year, the Scottish government introduced the measure after being held back by the Supreme Court for six years. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg had ruled (in an earlier decision) that Scotland would only be allowed to set minimum pricing if it were able to prove that the measure would improve the condition for public health. However, the Supreme Court’s conclusion was that “Minimum pricing is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. It would stand to reason that the “proportionate means” part of the argument was actually backed up by science, but the opposite is the case: no evidence points the fact that minimum pricing would actually reduce the consumption of spirits.

Empirical evidence from other EU member states has shown that large-scale meddling in the food market often backfires. This has been shown in the example of Denmark, which introduced a special fat tax on certain goods, only to repeal the bill (with the same majority) 15 months later. What had happened? Not only was the tax an additional burden on people with low incomes, it also incentivised consumers to downgrade to cheaper products in the supermarket (while maintaining their consumptions of fats), leading to no impact on health and minor impact on consumption overall.

The evidence in favour of minimum alcohol pricing is simply not here. In a 2013 review of 19 studies, only two found that a significant and substantial reduction in drinking rates in response to alcohol price rises – “and even these two showed mixed results”. Earlier studies found responsiveness to prices to be close to zero.” This 1995 paper found that the heaviest drinkers’ responsiveness to price changes was statistically indistinguishable from zero, though it was based on very old data from the 1980s. This more recent one found that hazardous and harmful drinkers (people who consume more than 17.5 units per week) had a very low response to price changes.

Minimum alcohol pricing is inherently a regressive measure, as it hits low-income households the most. The measure is therefore not only failing to achieve its own objectives, it is also unfair to a large chunk of the population While minimum prices try to prevent consumers to pivot to lower-quality products, we need to realise that funds are fungible. Nothing prevents consumers to spend less money on healthy food or other essential items, in order to afford their consumption of booze.

An even more concerning issue could be a new rise in black market alcohol sales, which are known to bring considerable health hazards to the table. Given this regressive measure hits low incomes the hardest, it makes it likely that cities like Cardiff or Swansea will see a massive rise in illicit alcohol dealers adding to the already existing black market presence for drugs.

There should, however, be no ambiguity about one point: the consumption of alcohol does bring health risks that all consumers should be aware off. Educational practices should promote and enable responsible drinkers, without falling into blatant paternalism, the likes of which will infantilise the Welsh consumer and their consumer choice.

In the Committee Stage 1 Report in March of this year, the committee on health and social care & sports writes: “We note, and agree with stakeholders, that enabling the minimum unit price to be determined in regulations could ensure its impact and effectiveness can be reviewed and updated (if necessary) in a timely manner.” Let’s hope that lawmakers will stay true to this promise, and change the policy if the scientific evidence contradicts them.

Originally published at http://commentcentral.co.uk/minimum-alcohol-pricing-doesnt-work/

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Cherry-picking is reality of the single market

TIMES OF LONDON: As Frederik Roeder of the free-market think tank Centre for Consumer Choice told me, the national governments are busy “cherry-picking” the proposals. Nobody is claiming that this is outrageous behaviour.

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.