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Price-based measures to reduce alcohol consumption

Rachel Griffith, Andrew Leicester and Martin O'Connell
Briefing note

In this briefing note, we compare the effectiveness of the proposed minimum unit price and quantity discount ban to an alternative policy which reforms and significantly simplifies the structure of excise taxes levied on alcohol. We use detailed information on the off-trade alcohol purchases of a large number of households over a year to assess whether the reforms would target heavy drinkers, a group who are of particular policy concern because of harms they cause to themselves and others by their alcohol intake. We argue that a reformed tax system could be even better targeted on this group than a minimum unit price, and that a quantity discount ban is poorly targeted. We also show that a tax reform could generate additional tax revenue for the Exchequer, whereas a minimum unit price would raise revenue for alcohol retailers and manufacturers and reduce tax revenue.

If government wants to reduce alcohol consumption among heavy drinkers then it would be better advised to concentrate on reforming the excise duty system that already exists rather than to introduce a new system of minimum pricing.

See also the Observation Reforms to alcohol taxes would be more effective than minimum unit pricing and the presentation Price-based measures to reduce alcohol consumption .


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Presentation given at the Scottish Government Strategy Unit Seminar Series.