Vested interests – including the drinks industry – have raised objections to the Government's plan for a minimum price at which a unit of alcohol can be sold. Millions of moderate drinkers will be unfairly punished, they say, if ministers impose a 50p unit price to mirror the one to be introduced in Scotland soon.
But a small price rise will bring a big return. It will reduce deaths from liver disease and other ailments, which have risen by 1,000 a year. It should result in 50,000 fewer drink-related crimes each year.
Opponents dispute these figures. But the benefits of tackling underage and binge drinking are clear in financial and social terms. It will also benefit pubs which have suffered from the 25 per cent growth in off-licences since 1980 making alcohol 44 per cent cheaper. It is less expensive in Britain today to get drunk than to go to the cinema. That should not be so.