The UK government has raised the price of alcohol. They have forbidden supermarkets from sell it as such a loss-leader that it costs less than the combined VAT and excise duty of 34 cents a unit for beer and slightly more for spirits.
The burden of alcoholism is such that it contributes to up to 40,000 deaths a year in the UK - nearly one in ten - and to 863,000 hospital admissions a day. The price rise will contribute nothing of benefit to that.
Just as with tobacco, price is the biggest influence on consumption. With the current recession people are drinking slightly less, but there is a big way to go, with Scotland being one of the drunkest nations on the planet (all those dark winters).
The Royal College of Physicians has recommended that price rise to around 75 cents a unit, which it is estimated would result in 3393 fewer deaths, 97,900 fewer hospital admissions, 45,800 fewer crimes, 296,900 fewer days of work, and a total saving to the UK economy of $22.5 billion over 10 years.
Heavy drinkers buy 15 times more alcohol than moderate drinkers, spend 10 times as much and pay 40% less per liter of pure alcohol by buying cheaper versions. This increase would therefore target the heavy drinker who is most vulnerable and would actually benefit the average shopper since the losses made on alcohol by the supermarkets and recompensed by putting up the prices of everything else.
Commentators have suggested that successive governments have listened too much to the alcohol industry and too little to health professionals.