The news that the European Commission won't allow the Scottish Government (and Wales who intended to follow) to introduce a minimum price for alcohol was disappointing. The rationale for such a move is well-established by public health experts who are convinced that is the way to reduce alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths. The Commission didn't deny the evidence or the aim their argument was simply that it was an infringement on a free market that could set a precedent and the same result could be achieved through taxation i.e. raising alcohol duty.
This presents a problem. Raising alcohol duty affects pubs and clubs just as much as supermarkets yet it is the twin problems of alcoholics buying up low-cost supplies and students buying up crates of cheap booze to 'pre-load' before hitting the town, that the Government should be targeting rather than the struggling pub trade.
So we should split alcohol duty into an 'on sales' class and and 'off sales' class. This would allow Government to hike the duty on retailers (namely supermarkets) to address problem drinking whilst freezing or even mildly cutting the duty paid in pubs and clubs thus encouraging more people to head out earlier rather than 'pre-loading' at home when the evidence shows people tend (though clearly we all know exceptions!) to drink more sensibly in a public setting than at home.
This policy also has more going for it than its public health benefits. It would boost pubs, restaurants and clubs which create jobs. It would also raise more tax revenue than minimum pricing would have done and that money can be used to invest in treatments for those suffering from alcoholism.