Do more alcohol outlets lead to more drinking? Not necessarily.

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A new study in Addiction purports to find that more alcohol outlets mean more drinking among local consumers--which led the authors of the study to call for more intense regulation of alcohol licenses. But Christopher Snowden from Spectator Health argues that the study may have been flawed:

It seems to be Economic Illiteracy Week in the temperance movement. On Monday, it was ‘revealed’ that places which have more alcohol outlets have higher rates of alcohol-related harm. Since alcohol-related harm is linked to alcohol consumption, this is a fairly basic illustration of supply and demand. Greater demand results in greater availability.

The authors of the study, published in Addiction, found that there were 16 per cent more hospital admissions for ‘acute alcohol intoxication’ in areas where there is a high density of pubs and clubs. While this might be a ‘no shit, Sherlock’ moment for anyone familiar with the real world, the plot thickened when they found that restaurant density was associated with an even larger rise of 22 per cent. Since restaurants are not generally regarded as binge-drinking hotspots, it seems likely that the causal factor is the night-time economy in city centres rather than the number of alcohol licences per se.

Nevertheless, the authors concluded their study by calling for ‘more intensive regulatory scrutiny’ of ‘licensing policy decisions’. Translation: restrict availability in the vain hope that making alcohol fractionally less easy to come by will stop people getting drunk.

Read more here.