In backing a minimum price, David Cameron is over-ruling his Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, who believes individual willpower and the tobacco, alcohol and junk food giants will voluntarily improve our health.
Common-sense and the statistics are on the Prime Minister’s side. Some 21 per cent of women and 31 per cent of men drink hazardously or harmfully and in England the financial cost is £55bn a year – £1,069 per person.
The price of booze has fallen for decades and raising it will reduce demand. According to the University of Sheffield, a 40p minimum price will cut hospital admissions by 41,000 and save £116m in health and other costs.
Most drinkers won’t notice the difference. At 40p a unit, only one in 10 products will rise in price, notably bottles of strong cider, slabs of lager and cheap bottles of gin, vodka and whisky. According to The Grocer, a two-litre bottle of Strongbow will jump from £3.23 to £4.24 and a 700ml bottle of Bushmills whisky from £10 to £16.90. Three bottles of wine for a tenner will cost an extra £1 or, more likely, the price will stay the same - and the wine get worse.