Health Minister Anne Milton has said the coalition government will tackle the misuse of alcohol by addressing the root causes of harmful drinking and asking individuals, rather than retailers, to make decisions about their consumption.

"We cannot just frogmarch people out of the off licence, but freedom without responsibility is not an option," the minister told delegates at last week's Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum. "We can't just restrict supply. We have to have a whole-life approach to clearly understand what makes people drink too much, and we need to look actively at the question of motivation."

Her comments suggest that the government will not build its policy on restricting retailers, a tactic which many believe would not stop harmful drinkers getting access to alcohol or reduce their intake. While she said that legislation was necessary to ensure alcohol was traded responsibly, Milton added: "We must focus on giving people the right messages so they are able to make decisions about their health.

"It's about balance," she concluded. "Price has a part to play and we have plans on taxation and pricing." However, she said that "the evidence is not robust" that price rises would prevent alcohol abuse.