What is a “moderate drinker”?

England’s Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson, who today is calling for a minimum retail price for alcoholic beverages of 50p per unit, claims that the resulting price hike would add no more than a pound a month to the alcohol bill of a “moderate drinker”.

A perfectly respectable budget wine can be purchased in the UK for around £4 a bottle. If a typical bottle of wine contains 10 units of alcohol, we are talking about a minimum price per bottle of £6 should the government accept Sir Liam’s proposal.

If the recommended maximum alcohol intake for a man is 21 units a week, that’s two bottles of wine, more or less. This equates to a price increase of £4 a week, or £16 a month, for a individual possessed of taste buds whose alcohol intake does not exceed what medical experts regard as a sensible amount. Contrast this with Sir Liam’s own figures, which to me make very little sense.

Alcohol is relatively cheap in Britain, but it’s cheaper in most other EU territories. Binge drinking may be a serious health problem here and elsewhere, but we don’t appear to be discussing the reasons why so many people like to spend their leisure time in a state of leglessness.

I find it reassuring that the government, which in the past has not been known for favouring evidence-based policymaking, has reacted coolly to Sir Liam’s report.