Eric Crampton

Dr Eric Crampton joined the New Zealand Initiative as Head of Research in August, 2014. He served as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Department of Economics & Finance at the University of Canterbury from November 2003 until July 2014. The Dismal Science syndicates some of his blog posts from Offsetting Behaviour. Eric is on Twitter @ericcrampton

Alcohol harms and the NZ reforms - The Dismal Science

Jun 12, 2018

Man, I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. The Science Media Centre pointed me to reporting on some new work look at what’s happened consequent to National’s Sale & Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. It always felt like a spot where some really good work could be done. Different locales implemented different district licensing plans at different times, so you could run a panel study looking at how different measures worked in different places. But that isn’t what this is. And what it is… well, let’s go through it. So the Science Media Centre points to this Newsroom piece by Farah Hancock. It doesn’t start well. Alcohol industry appeals have “muted” potential benefits of legislation aimed at reducing the estimated $14.5 million a day cost of alcohol harm, a new study finds. Massey University research shows the only … Read More

Regulatory Catch-22? - The Dismal Science

May 25, 2018

Last month’s court decision, and subsequent MoH position statement, mean that heat-not-burn tobacco products are legal to sell in New Zealand.  But the MoH position statement said that other tobacco control regulations will apply to reduced-risk tobacco and tobacco-derived products, barring the ban on indoor use in workplaces. Therefore, the same SFEA regulatory controls apply to smoked tobacco, heated tobacco and vaping products that are manufactured from tobacco. This includes the ban on sales to minors and restrictions on advertising. The ban on smoking in indoor workplaces, early childhood centres and schools only applies to smoking. It does not apply to vaping or products that are not smoked, such as heated tobacco products. Individual employers and business owners decide whether or not to include vaping in their smokefree policies. This could be reasonably read as meaning that MoH intends … Read More

Otago and disagreement - The Dismal Science

May 11, 2018

Every time I think that the University of Otago’s Public Health people can’t get any worse, they go and surprise me. Today, the Initiative launched Jenesa Jeram’s excellent report on vaping and reduced-harm alternatives to smoking. It walks through the evidence on the risks of vaping, heat-not-burn products, and snus, and makes some recommendations around liberalising access so that smokers might be able to choose ways of getting nicotine that don’t involve breathing in smoke. The report has drawn some reasonable support. Here’s Action on Smoking and Health: The report is well informed and accurate. ASH has followed and will continue to follow the evidence in relation to all those alternatives. Great article @JenesaJeram and @nzinitiative — ASH New Zealand (@ASHNZ2025) May 11, 2018 And here’s Massey University’s Prof of Public Health, Marewa … Read More

Crowding out - The Dismal Science

May 10, 2018

You should always worry at least a bit about whether a government programme crowds out some other private sector initiative. A state-provided daycare centre could crowd out existing private providers. A welfare programme could crowd out existing charitable programmes. And government house-building schemes could crowd out private development. The mechanism for crowding out is simple if you spend a few minutes thinking about it, but often isn’t obvious to people unless it is pointed out. If there are only so many construction workers currently available in New Zealand and if they’re all already employed, the government’s Kiwibuild programme will have to crowd out some existing private construction simply by bidding construction workers away from other house-building activities. But I never expected it to be this transparent! The Government wants to buy private housing developers’ existing plans to add homes … Read More

Publication Bias - The Dismal Science

May 03, 2018

We’ve known about the problems of publication bias at least since 1992. If it’s easier to get statistically significant results published than insignificant results, then there are whole literatures that become untrustworthy. Andrea Menclova at Canterbury is doing something about it. This has been a while in the making – we were talking about it when I was still at Canterbury. Good things take time, and now it’s live. Suppose your paper has been rejected from an EconLit-indexed journal, with the only important issues raised by the referees being that the results are unsurprising or insignificant. Submit your paper along with the referee reports and the letter from the rejecting journal, and it will be considered at SURE Journal: Series of Unsurprising Results in Economics Aim and Scope The Series of Unsurprising Results in Economics (SURE) is an e-journal of … Read More

Electoral lists – a simple recommendation - The Dismal Science

Apr 30, 2018

The Electoral Commission is worried that its published electoral lists – the list of each voter and that voter’s address – could be misused. From Bryce Edwards’ summary: Currently there is almost a “free for all” in the use of printed electoral roll data. All sorts of companies, such as debt collectors and marketers make use of the printed electoral roll in order to carry out their commercial activities. There are huge privacy issues involved, which the law appears to be ignorant of, and there are people who therefore choose not to enroll to vote precisely because they don’t want their residential addresses to be made public. There are also increasing concerns about analytical manipulation of personal data, and cyber incursions, which is made more possible by advances in technology. So, if the electoral roll data gets into the … Read More

Opinion: Precious arable land - The Dismal Science

Apr 23, 2018

I just don’t get the fixation with making sure that nobody builds a house on agricultural land. The government plans to make it harder for councils to approve new homes and lifestyle blocks on productive land near urban areas. A report out today, called Our Land 2018, shows New Zealand’s urban sprawl is eating up some of the country’s most versatile land. It highlights that between 1990 and 2008, 29 percent of new urban areas were built on some of the country’s most versatile land. Lifestyle blocks were also having an impact – in 2013 those blocks covered 10 percent of New Zealand’s best land. Environment Minister David Parker said one area that was at particular risk was Pukekohe, known as Auckland’s food basket. “We obviously need more housing around Auckland, but we also need to protect our … Read More

Choice of baseline matters - The Dismal Science

Apr 17, 2018

Looks like folks are back to arguing about whether there’s a J-curve in alcohol consumption. The J-curve plots out the relationship between all-cause mortality and drinking. Non-drinkers are at the left-hand upwards tip of the J, light-to-moderate drinkers are in the dip, then heavy drinkers are in the upwards tilt at the right hand side. And the ballpark numbers I keep in my head on this are from Di Castelnuovo and Donati’s metastudy from 2006 that has light drinkers (about a drink a day) with a relative risk of about 0.84 as compared to non-drinkers when former drinkers are excluded. The Lancet has a piece up that the press are covering as showing no J-curve. But they start their curve with a reference category of light drinkers: people consuming a small amount of alcohol per week. The J-curve normally … Read More

Is Vaping Legal? Eric Crampton on the SmokeFree Environments Act - The Dismal Science

Apr 16, 2018

The Fairfax papers have a good summary out today of what’s going on in vaping – as of a month ago. They write: When British public health experts first said vaping (using e-cigarettes) poses only a fraction of the health risk of tobacco smoking, the trend surged in popularity around the world, including in New Zealand. But it remains illegal to sell or manufacture nicotine juices, or devices here. So how come there are shops openly touting vaping products containing nicotine? THE LEGAL VACUUM Currently, it’s legal to import juices containing nicotine, but only enough for personal use. Nicotine juices and devices, however, still cannot be legally sold in New Zealand. But anyone who vapes knows stores sell those products anyway, and aren’t likely to get prosecuted. Basically, the law just isn’t enforced. But I don’t know that that’s right … Read More

Eric Crampton on the sugar tax and Otago’s response - The Dismal Science

Apr 06, 2018

Otago’s public health people, perhaps unsurprisingly, didn’t like NZIER’s take on sugar taxes. They’ve blogged on it here, but they seem to have missed a few important points. A Report commissioned by the Ministry of Health, written by NZIER, has recently been getting air-time as an argument against taxing sugary drinks.  However, the Report seems to us to be seriously flawed. For example, the Report argues that soft drinks do not impose a negative externality.  A negative externality is when consumption of a “good” (product) imposes costs on others.  For example, it is universally accepted that tobacco smoking results in costs to society (eg increased health care spending), and therefore has negative externalities that justify tax.  The same is true of sugary drinks increasing obesity/diabetes/tooth decay rates that then results in health costs to society.  It is well recognised by economists … Read More