Background: Alcohol use has a high prevalence, is associated with both positive and negative effects but in general with a substantial disease burden and is further associated with economic costs to society, reducing welfare. Such costs are caused by premature deaths attributable to alcohol use, reduced quality of life, early drop out from schools, lesser productivity due to absenteeism and reduced efficiency while at work and traffic accidents caused by drink driving. Moreover, alcohol use results in increased health care uptake rates, while additional costs are incurred by the criminal justice system due to alcohol-related vandalism and violence. In short, alcohol use has detrimental impacts on the welfare and economy of the Netherlands. In response to the health and economic burden attributable to alcohol use, the Dutch Ministry of Health (VWS) is considering to implement and enforce a new set of regulatory policies aimed at curbing alcohol use in the Dutch population. These new policies include: (1) increasing prices for alcoholic drinks by setting minimum price levels for alcoholic beverages and by increasing excise tax, (2) reducing sales and (3) placing a (selective) ban on the advertisement for alcoholic drinks.
Objective: The Ministry of Health requires a Social Cost-Benefit Analysis (SCBA) to map the distribution of the short-term and longer-term costs of implementing and enforcing the new regulatory policies over the pertinent stakeholders that might be affected and its consequences of these new policies for the public purse. In addition, the Ministry of Health requires that these costs will be compared with the short-term and longer-term benefits accrued to the pertinent stakeholders. If the monetised balance of the total costs and total benefits is positive, then this will lend support to the new policies as seen from a social cost-benefit perspective. However, if the costs exceed the benefits, then such support is missing. The Ministry of Health commissioned the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) to open a call for this SCBA. The ZonMw call requests that the social cost-benefit study would start the first of July 2015 and be completed mid-December. The study needs to address two central research questions: (1) What are the socio-economic costs and benefits of current alcohol usage? (2) What is the impact of the new policies to reduce alcohol use relative to the base case scenario?
Strategy: This study will be performed by a consortium consisting of RIVM, Maastricht University, Trimbos Institute and Ecorys. RIVM will serve as main applicant, with dr. Ardine de Wit taking responsibility as project leader. The Consortium will conduct the social cost-benefit study by taking the following steps:
1. Scoping the problem, overview of costs and benefits of alcohol use
2. Defining the reference-scenario and its future under the current policies
3. Defining the alternative scenario and its future under the new policies
4. Valuing the costs of the alternative scenario vis-à-vis the reference-scenario
5. Valuing the benefits of the alternative scenario vis-à-vis the reference-scenario
6. Appraising the present value of costs and benefits and their per-stakeholder distribution
7. Conducting sensitivity analyses to assess the robustness of outcomes
8. Presenting the outcomes
Deliverables: The project has to be executed within a restricted period of time, as results may be used in a hearing in Parliament that is scheduled early 2016. This stresses the importance of proper communication of the project’s results thorough an intermediate briefing to ZonMw and the Ministry of Health and a final meeting at the Ministry of Health to discuss the project’s results. The study’s outcomes will be reported in a Policy Brief accompanied by a Technical Report and an Agenda for further research.