May to set minimum alcohol price
The coalition is set to unveil controversial plans to tackle "drunken mayhem" on Britain's streets by introducing a higher-than-expected minimum alcohol price of 45p per unit.
Multi-buy deals in supermarkets and off-licences could also be banned, under proposals being put out for consultation.
Home Secretary Theresa May is outlining the package in an effort to "turn the tide" on a culture of irresponsible drinking estimated to cost the taxpayer £21 billion annually.
Officials said it was currently possible to buy a can of lager for as little as 20p, and a two litre bottle of cider for £1.69.
More than a million crimes and 1.2 million hospital admissions were linked to alcohol last year.
The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), made up of 32 medical and counselling organisations, welcomed the step. But chairman Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said the minimum unit price should be 50p rather than 45p.
"The evidence shows us that heavy drinkers and young drinkers are more affected by higher alcohol prices than moderate drinkers," he said.
"According to the University of Sheffield, a minimum unit price of 50p would reduce total alcohol consumption by 6.7%, saving around 20,000 hospital admissions in the first year."
However, the drinks industry warned that the 45p threshold would hit modest consumers hard, without addressing the underlying problems.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive, said: "While the Government may be consulting on 45p consumers should be aware that the final minimum unit price could be much higher than that."