I don’t often write about alcohol, because I don’t drink it. But society does and enjoys it, though not all of its consequences.
Scotland is now proposing a minimum price for alcohol, which would more than double the cost of some cheaper drinks such as budget ciders (popular with drinkers who binge to excess).
This would not be a new tax. Taxes on alcohol are already high. The extra money will go to manufacturers, retailers or bars. The question is: will a minimum price help?
Modelling indicates it will save £942m over 10 years by reducing annual alcohol-related hospital admissions – 17% to 32,500 and alcohol-related deaths 23% to around 1,000. That’s 300 lives saved each year.
Many dispute this. They say it will not affect the behaviour of those who most need to change. Instead, it will penalise the majority of cost-conscious, moderate drinkers.
Once again, the battle lines are drawn between public health and popular choice. The winner, as ever, is likely to be the political perception of the moment.
Richard Hall is chairman of Zenith International