Ban on alcohol reduces deaths

On July 13, 2020 a complete nation-wide ban was placed on the sale and transport of alcohol in South Africa. The project was accompanied by a team of researchers to explore the effects of this very unusual ban. Among them was Kai Barron, Research Fellow of the Research Unit Economics of Change. They found out, that the policy reduced the number of unnatural deaths by 21 per day, or approximately 740 over the five-week period.

The results of this ban were published in a discussion paper, which evaluates the impact of this sudden and unexpected five- week alcohol prohibition on mortality due to unnatural causes. The researchers find that the policy reduced the number of unnatural deaths by 21 per day, or approximately 740 over the five-week period. This constitutes a 14% decrease in the total number of deaths due to unnatural causes. They argue that this represents a lower bound on the impact of alcohol on short-run mortality, and underscores the severe influence that alcohol has on society—even in the short-run.

Kai Barron, Debbie Bradshaw, Charles D.H. Parry, Rob Dorrington, Pam Groenewald, Ria Laubscher, and Richard Matzopoulos (2021): “Alcohol and Short-run Mortality: Evidence from a Modern-Day Prohibition”. Rationality & Competition CRC TRR 190, Discussion Paper No.  273.