I thought the first few weeks of the new coalition would be all about how to cut the public deficit. Instead, how to cut binge drinking is dominating the media agenda.

As duty hikes loom for the industry, the millions of column inches devoted to a ban on below-cost booze promotions as suggested by the Tories were followed this week by proposals from NICE for a minimum cost for alcohol and a total advertising ban.

The media, in a bout of collective amnesia, had clearly forgotten it had covered all these old proposals before, and positively lapped them up.

These debates are, of course, the warm-up act before the Chancellor unveils his emergency budget on 22 June. But if it feels a bit like Silly Season as a result, there's nothing 'silly' about the issues at stake.

Amid massive capacity reductions and job cuts, The Grocer has learnt that suppliers to Tesco are being asked to foot the bill for duty hikes on all promotions up to 16 October. Others are sure to follow suit.

But there is one proposal, amid all this booze-based talk, that strikes me as sensible, and that's minimum pricing.

The main reason Tesco is demanding suppliers take the duty hikes on the chin is because they're already subsidising so many deals themselves. And I don't think supermarkets should be subsidising alcohol while making a mint on fruit and veg not if they want to be called socially responsible, anyway.

If retailers were required by law to charge a minimum price for alcohol, it wouldn't eradicate binge drinking. But neither would it punish responsible drinkers: at 50p per unit, under the proposals, the price of a pint of Stella would be £1.47.

A standard glass of wine £1.14. A shot of spirits £0.5op. With a more level playing field, however, it would put the emphasis on taste and branding; would help pubs survive; and would encourage more promotions like The Co-op's competition to win a Mini Cooper. If you eat your fruit and veg. 

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