Australian drinkers should not be forced to pay a minimum price for alcohol even though the move would probably reduce booze-fuelled harm, the National Preventive Health Agency (NPHA) has said.
In its long-awaited report, the NPHA concluded a floor price for alcohol was likely to cut “crime and violence, alcohol-related disease and productivity losses”, but said overall the policy was not in the public interest.
That is mainly because a minimum price, unlike a tax, would lead to alcohol retailers raking in bigger profits instead of more revenue going to the government to “be used to further reduce or treat alcohol-related harm”, the NPHA said.
“Price increases in the market … would flow solely to the private sector under such regulation,” it said in the report, released on Thursday.
In the UK, the agency said, it was estimated a minimum alcohol price of 45 pence per standard drink would boost retail profits by between €700m ($1.05bn) and €2.2bn.
“Thus, the agency advises the commonwealth government that a minimum (floor) price for alcohol should not be introduced nationally at this time,” the NPHA said.
The NPHA also said there was strong support for alcoholic drinks to be taxed according to alcohol strength, not price, under a “volumetric tax” system.
In addition, the agency urged the government to look at the wine equalisation tax, which it said “results in price distortions in the alcohol market in particular in favour of cheap wine”.
Another key recommendation was for more alcohol data collection, including on cider consumption.
The report said a minimum price of about $1.50 would have the biggest impact on the cost of cask wine, while beer and most other types of alcohol would not be affected.
The report has come amid speculation the NPHA is one of a number of health agencies marked for abolition in the federal government’s commission of audit.
The audit, due to be unveiled on Thursday, is said to contain 86 recommendations and urge big cuts to the size of government.
The NPHA was established in 2010 to forestall preventable chronic disease by targeting health concerns, including obesity, tobacco and alcohol.