Commentator accuses anti-alcohol lobbyists of using "fundamentally flawed" research to try to engineer "a tax on the poor"

Commentator Steve Topple has ripped into “fundamentally flawed” research suggesting alcohol abuse will kill 63,000 people in the next five years if punitive measures are not slapped on alcohol.

Writing in The Canary, Topple said calls from the Alcohol Health Alliance, Alcohol Concern and the public health lobby to introduce a 50p minimum unit price offer “nothing more than a tax on the poorest people in society”.

Topple was taking aim at research from “so-called experts” at Sheffield University estimating that alcohol misuse will lead to 62,905 deaths between 2017 and 2022.

He wrote: “The research has fundamental flaws. It uses ‘elasticity matrices’, which model the relationship between alcohol price and the change in consumption for different demographics.

“But these don’t consider people as individuals, with individual nuances to alcohol. And other research from Canada showed that, while MUP decreased alcohol-related crime, at the same time Class A drug-related offences actually rose. Also, there was a significant increase in reported addiction and overdoses relating to prescription drugs.

“But it is the facts about alcohol consumption that campaigners seem to ignore. That is, the poorer you are, the worse effect alcohol has on your life.

“What this shows, and what the policymakers don’t get with MUP, is that alcohol abuse is a class issue. While alcohol dependency and addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their SES, the abuse is most common among the poorest. And as The Canary previously documented, these same patterns exist in smoking and obesity.

“In short, the poor aren’t drinking themselves to death because they enjoy it; it’s often unconsciously to escape the harsh realities of 21st century, poverty-ridden corporatist life.

“But the so-called ‘experts’ and medical professionals’ response to a fairly obvious problem is to slap another tax on the symptom, not address the underlying sickness. Crude measures on sugar, tobacco, alcohol and drugs do nothing to address why the poorest people abuse these in such vast quantities. It merely hopes that ‘nannying’ people, or plunging them into even greater poverty, will solve the problem.

“Policymakers and medical professionals need to realise that alcohol, drugs, sugar, tobacco and addiction are not generally the cause of a problem, but the symptom of another: in this case the corporatist capitalism pervading the 21st century UK. But until they do, blunt instruments like the MUP will only serve to worsen the financial and medical outcomes of the poorest people in society.”

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