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Prime Minister Hopes Price Increase Will Help Brits Hold Their Liquor

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The British government has apparently had it with the nation's binge drinking and the resultant drain on the universal health care system. Calling the situation a "scandal," Prime Minister David Cameron wants to raise the minimum price for booze across the board to $0.80 per unit.
Britain's National Health Service estimates that drinking costs the state $4.4 billion per year once liquor-related violence and disease are included in the mix, and liver disease has risen by 25%  over the last decade, according to AP.

The wire service notes that "men chasing each other and shrieking like teenagers; women stumbling and falling over in their too-short skirts and high heels" and "sidewalks ... littered with empty beer bottles and reeking puddles" are a common sight, as are government-run "booze buses" whose job it is to transport revelers to a clinic when they get falling-down drunk.

Still, drinking in general has actually decreased during the same period, leading to the conclusion that a small but dedicated cadre of mostly young people (the legal drinking age is 18) is responsible.

Predictably, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association was less than thrilled with the prime minister's proposal. The association, whose hundreds of members include Heineken (HINKY.PK), Pernod Ricard (RI), Concha y Toro (VCO), Sainsbury (SBRY), and Diageo (DEO), which makes Smirnoff, Bailey's, Johnnie Walker, and Guinness, told the Daily Mail: "We think this is going to lead ultimately to legal challenges...It would be a drinks company taking the case, or perhaps a group of drinks companies."

Even some members of the government are leery of the plan, which they say could be heading into EU antitrust territory.

The anti-binging campaign, which Home Secretary Theresa May described to the Daily Mail as a "comprehensive strategy to take back our town centres from the drunken thugs and to restore them to the law-abiding majority," includes a measure to ban discounted alcohol deals.

For a brief period, it seemed New York City might also be considering a ban on happy hour. The New York Post reported the city was in talks about it, spurred by the city Department of Health's mandate to keep people from overdoing it. Mayor Michael Bloomberg vehemently denied that a happy hour ban was ever under consideration.
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