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Leading article: Hard to swallow

No one disputes the harmful effects of too much alcohol, whether on health or on law and order. But we doubt very much that the proposal by the chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, is the way to go. Sir Liam is recommending that no alcoholic drinks should be sold for less than 50 pence per unit of alcohol they contain. This would raise the price of most bottles of wine above £4.50 and end many cheaper "own brand" lines offered by supermarkets and others.

There are good reasons for tackling excessive drinking – alcohol-related hospital admissions have more than doubled in England alone since 1995. But penalising everyone who enjoys a drink in order to deal with a troublesome minority is unnecessary. The Government already has levers at its disposal, from taxation, through licensing, to the minimum age for buying alcohol and laws on anti-social behaviour. Until these measures are used more effectively than they are, there is no point in introducing any more.