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Govt still loves alcohol pricing despite evidence it doesn’t work

Last May, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly explained the rationale for Ireland introducing minimum unit alcohol pricing: “Because there is powerful evidence this works.”

At the time, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Frank Feighan, added: “We know from our modelling and from the evidence from Scotland that minimum unit pricing impacts the most on high-risk, harmful drinkers.”

So to be clear, in the government’s own words, the goal of this policy was to reduce alcohol consumption among heavy drinkers. And supporting their view was the belief that data from Scotland allegedly showed it worked.

So one wonders how they will react to new findings from the British Medical Journal in Scotland, which seems to show that not only does minimum unit alcohol pricing not reduce drinking in many cases, but it may actually cause heavy drinkers to drink even more.

As reported this week by the Irish Times:

“Minimum alcohol pricing does not necessarily curb consumption among the heaviest and most vulnerable drinkers, new research has found…”the 5 per cent of heaviest drinking men had an increase in consumption associated with MUP…younger men and men living in more deprived areas had no decrease in consumption associated with MUP.””

It’s also been found that take-home sales of alcohol in Ireland had increased since minimum unit pricing was introduced.

This is noteworthy considering the fact that alcohol consumption in Ireland was actually moving in the right direction according to the WHO for years before this policy was introduced.

So essentially, the government decided to get involved in an issue which was already largely solving itself, by employing a policy which likely didn’t help its target and may have actually made the problem worse. But that’s politicians for you.

By the way, lest we forget, Sinn Féin are implicated in this as well, considering they supported a more extreme version of the same policy, wanting it rolled out in 32 counties as opposed to just the 26.

At least with the current system people in the border counties can drive up North for drinks – if Mary Lou had her way even those people would be rightly snookered.

Of course we also can’t divorce this policy from the cost of living crisis, where ordinary people are having the price of yet another product deliberately inflated and hiked up by the State.

They did it with fuel and electricity with carbon tax. They’re threatening to do it with meal deals and sweets.

And they’ve done it with alcohol too. If there’s one thing you can rely on during a crisis, it’s that these lads will find a way, by hook or by crook, to make the problem worse and meddle in your personal life, no matter how senseless or futile the crusade. That’s something you can always take to the bank.

We’re now in a position where we have good scientific evidence to believe our current policy doesn’t work, and may in fact make the situation worse. We know it’s financially punitive to people during a cost of living crisis. And we know it’s woefully unpopular with the general public, as polling has consistently shown.

And so, does that mean we’re going to scrap or reverse it based on new evidence?

HA! Good one.

No, dear reader – bad decisions in this country, while not always permanent, don’t go away that easily. They like to linger, like orange pasta sauce stains on a tupperware container that you can’t quite wash out no matter how hard you scrub.

Just look at the preposterous proposed turf ban, which is still slithering along after huge backlash, albeit in a greatly reduced form.

BEN SCALLAN: Ireland’s comically bad turf climbdown

And considering the opposition supported it too, who’s going to call the government out on this failure? The mainstream media? You must be joking me.

It’s in nobody’s interest to admit they were wrong. Our leaders are committed, not to pragmatism or practicality, as with the Ukraine open borders policy, but to ideas and emotions. They blindly follow “what feels right at the time.” And so, as always in this country, there will be a conspiracy of silence as the stupidity continues unbounded.

No amount of evidence or logic, it seems, is enough to dislodge a foolish establishment policy once it embeds itself into law.



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