Proposals for a minimum price for alcohol could hit pubs and retailers if they are taken up by the government.
A new study, published by the Chief Medical Office for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, suggests that a minimum price of 50 pence per unit would help to curb excessive drinking and combat alcoholism.
While the study is still just a proposal, rather than policy, the implications for publicans and retailers would be significant if it were taken up. It would be virtually impossible, for example, to sell a bottle of wine for less than £4.50, while the average six-pack of lager would cost at least £6.00.
There are fears that the increased cost of alcohol would put further pressure on already tightly squeezed pubs. However, some commentators have pointed out that these measures would render it impossible for chain pubs to run promotions like Wetherspoons" 99p pint, which might end up benefiting independent establishments.
The proposals have been met with a guarded response from Gordon Brown, who has said he is unwilling to penalise "the responsible, sensible majority of moderate drinkers."