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  • rmacculloch

Jack Tame should enrol in a Cost-Benefit Analysis course (and refrain from advising the government).

In a prominent One News editorial, Jack Tame asks "Why don't politicians act on our most harmful drug?" He says, "A study by Otago University, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, used 17 different harm criteria to assess the impact of different drugs on New Zealanders. The study considered harm to the individual as well as society at large, and in the end the results weren't even close. Top of the pops, a full 17% ahead of second place, wasn't methamphetamine or opiates or tobacco, but good old-fashioned, buy-it-at-the-supermarket booze".

On and on Tame goes, "By some estimates alcohol harm in NZ costs roughly $8 billion a year .. Governments have deferred substantive action on booze laws in NZ. They've ignored expert advice & the conclusions of their own reviews". He wants "restrictions on alcohol advertising". Great. Tame (and Otago Medical School) equate alcohol consumption with being a methamphetamine addict. They argue, based on such costs, that heavier regulation, particularly on advertising, and perhaps higher excise taxes, of alcohol is the way to go.

Spot their mistake? Alcohol consumption has huge costs to many people. It also has huge benefits to many people. Since the start of time, humans worked out the benefits wildly exceed the costs. Those benefits are hard to quantify, since they include the psychological pleasure from having a glass of wine or beer to relax. Yet they exist & estimates can be done. Has Tame not heard of cost-benefit analysis, which weighs up both sides of this equation?

More pertinently, has Otago Medical School not heard of cost-benefit-analysis? When it came to giving advice on Covid, again it only looked at the costs of not implementing long and severe lock-downs. Sure, there were costs to health outcomes, but there were also benefits. What were those benefits? Well, for one thing those severe lock-downs and the botched reaction by the Minister of Finance and Reserve Bank are partly to blame now for our high inflation, run-away cost-of-living and the recession. The billions of lost output we are currently suffering could have been used by Pharmac to buy drugs, eliminate waiting lists and save our health system by recruiting more doctors and nurses. Yes, the benefits of not locking down so hard and for so long are real and large and ongoing.

The moral of the story is that it would be good if someday the folks at Otago Medical School (and Jack Tame) who like to give advice to our government took a course on Cost Benefit Analysis. A great Covid one was done by Professor John Gibson at the University of Waikato. His opinion piece called "Safety at all Costs Costs Lives" has a link below.



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