As befits a debate about excessive alcohol, a lot of nonsense is currently being spoken.

Most independent retailers I know would scoff at the British Retail Consortium's claim that 'Supermarkets are the most responsible sellers of alcohol'. As I write this, Asda is selling 18 x 275ml cases of Beck's on a two for £16 basis - in other words, a bottle of premium lager for 44p, less than many of you would sell a can of Coke for. That's not what I would call responsible.

Minimum pricing is widely being suggested as a solution to alcohol-related disorder, but I'm not convinced it's the answer. If the supermarkets are forced to sell alcohol at a set price, then they will simply reorganise their displays based on which supplier gives them the best margins, and do further damage with their enhanced returns.

A ban on selling below cost would be a much better place to start, but this is most unlikely to happen as the Competition Commission has already ruled (wrongly) that consumers benefit from this practice.

Amidst all the debate about minimum prices nothing is being said about maximum quantities, despite the fact that it's not the price you pay that gets you drunk, but the amount you consume.

So how about a restriction on the purchase of alcohol to, say, no more than 12 cans (or the equivalent) per shopping trip? This would eliminate at a stroke the most excessive deals such as those on 24s and 36s, while still enabling retailers of all sizes to run special offers locally.

We already operate a quantity restriction for products such as paracetamol, and it might provide a simple answer to an increasing headache for the trade.

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