Hitting Drinkers' Pockets Works

By Luke Walker 01/05/12

A study from Canada finds that mandatory alcohol price hikes effectively cut boozing.

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A new study from Canada suggests that some drinkers are incrementally deterred from drinking by increases in the minimum price of alcohol. The research was conducted in British Columbia, where alcohol prices are regulated by the state. With every 10% price increase, drinkers drank 3.4% less booze overall, and the types of liquor they chose narrowed markedly: consumption of mixers and ciders fall by a sizable 13.9%. Consumption of wine dropped by 8.9%, and consumption of distilled alcohol dropped by 6.8%. Beer intake fell by just 1.5%—by far the smallest change. "This is an important finding about an effective but under-utilized policy," says Dr. Tim Naimi, of Boston University School of Medicine, referring to the findings as "something of a silver bullet." Although some US states have mandatory tobacco price regulations, they don't currently set pricing on alcohol. But the UK—where liver disease is becoming a national health crisis—is considering the option.

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