Wednesday, 3 October 2012


A few weeks ago I mentioned the latest of Panorama's Boozy Britain episodes which made the startling claim that the lives of 50,000 pensioners will be saved by minimum pricing in its first decade. I expressed scepticism about this example of what I call bullshit inflation.

Forgive me if I sound jaded when I discuss these people's crystal balls, but it was only six months ago that a 50p minimum price was predicted to save 2,000 lives a year across the entire population. The government-funded sock puppet website says that it will save exactly 1,000 lives, again across the entire population. Suddenly saving 5,000 lives only amongst pensioners seems to be upping the ante somewhat, no?

All this was press released days before the episode aired and various newspapers covered the 'story' with headlines such as Minimum price for alcohol 'will save 50,000 pensioners'. The figure comes from the Sheffield University team who produce all these minimum pricing estimates.

It is garbage. Not just the usual 'this sounds like a bad guess' garbage, but full-on 'no amount of squirming can get us out of this, we're going to have to retract it and re-edit the programme' garbage. The figure is more than four times larger than their dubious methodology can allow—a difference of some 38,500 lives—and thanks to the efforts of one of Dick Puddlecote's readers, the Sheffield University team have confessed to "human error". Take this with as much salt as you like, but they claim that someone accidentally put the wrong figures into the computer when Panorama commissioned the research. Truly a case of garbage in, garbage out.

Read the whole story at Spiked and also see Dick Puddlecote and the Pub Curmudgeon.


JohnB said...

“Take this with as much salt as you like….”

Salt..... I don’t think that’s allowed either.

Peter said...

The figure comes from the Sheffield University team who produce all these minimum pricing estimates.
Obviously the ones who were too dense to get into Media Studies.

I sincerely hope that these people live long enough to see all their friends perish - to receive fewer and fewer visits from their relatives - to become forgetful, clumsy and fragile.

And I hope that they will not be able to afford the small solace that alcohol could provide - oh, no. I want them to be awake for this. For years and years.

I deal with elderly people on a voluntary basis - always have done. There is much to learn from the elderly, but the primary thing is that life's small pleasures to us - a joke, some conversation, a diversion - mean everything to them. Their days are otherwise empty.

Let these so-called researchers then spend many years in their dotage, rejoicing in each birthday comes along with a bedpan full of boiled sweets and the faint cheers of the other inhabitants of their nursing homes. As for me, I prefer quality over quantity.