The UK is considering Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) of alcohol, with an initial level of 45 p per unit.
Initially, I couldn’t see a downside, from the perspective of a wine lover. It would make the cheapest bottle of wine £4.22 according to the BBC News story linked above. In Scotland, where a MUP of 50 p is being considered, a bottle will cost at least £4.88.
It’s not a tax, so producers and retailers will benefit from the increased price, although they may also lose some sales.
And it would (hopefully) wipe off the shelves some of the more repellent drinks whose objective seems to be to deliver as much alcohol as possible for very little money. My experience with teenagers is that they are drawn to the likes of K Cider, which is £1 a can from the corner shop and 10% alcohol.
But after discussing the topic on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve heard some good arguments why MUP might be a bad idea. There will probably be unintended consequences, and generally speaking government intervention in markets is undesirable. It may also be illegal.
It does seem, though, that raising the price of alcohol saves lives (for example, see this study in The Lancet). This is what is driving MUP, and may see it succeed.