As household budgets face their worst squeeze for decades, one wonders whether the public health establishment feels any remorse for their role in driving up the cost of living. The kinds of taxes – on food, alcohol, tobacco, and soft drinks – that nanny statists have dedicated entire careers toward delivering are proven to have taken a greater share of income from the poor than the rich. An average family that indulges in drinking and tobacco will now spend £891 in cigarette levies and £216 in alcohol duty every year.
Advocates for sin taxes argue that their tactics are progressive if they improve the health of the poor more than the rich. Others may suggest that government revenues from these taxes can be used to cover the harms caused by smoking, drinking and obesity. The former argument ignores the economic hardship these policies create. The latter is not clear-cut: bear in mind, for instance, that the costs to the government of treating smoking-attributable diseases are covered more than four times over by early death savings and tobacco duty revenue.
Against this backdrop, it was revealed on Sunday that minimum unit pricing in Scotland had cost Scottish consumers £270 million over four years – the equivalent to over £70 per drinker. The policy, which sets a floor price on a unit of alcohol to prevent the sale of ‘cheap’ drinks, was introduced in Scotland in May 2018 because the Scottish government lacked the power to raise alcohol duty itself.
This means that the cost to consumers, paid through higher prices, is not collected as a tax but instead increases the revenues (and presumably profits) of alcohol suppliers. (I have no issue with businesses making profits, but it seems an odd response from officials who seem to have different attitudes towards the industry.)
There is little evidence to suggest a decline in crime, A&E