Scottish ministers have set the planned minimum price for alcohol in Scotland at 50p a unit in a move which will push a bottle of wine to £4.69 and four cans of basic lager to at least £3.52.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health secretary, said radical action was needed to tackle the significant health and social costs of alcohol abuse in Scotland. It will be the first time minimum pricing has been tried in the European Union.
"Cheap alcohol comes at a price and now is the time to tackle the toll that Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking on our society," she said.
"Too many Scots are drinking themselves to death. The problem affects people of all walks of life."
The minimum price is higher than all previous proposals, which started with 35p a unit in 2008, after experts at Sheffield University warned Sturgeon that the impact of a lower cost had been reduced by inflation and lower consumption recently.
Sir Harry Burns, Scotland's chief medical officer, said: "I strongly support minimum pricing, as part of a wider framework of action, as the best chance we have of reducing Scotland's harmful levels of alcohol consumption.
"Alcohol-related disease and violence are costing the NHS millions of pounds every year and this cannot be allowed to continue."
The measure has been backed by health experts, doctors, the police and the pub trade following expert evidence it would reduce some hospital admissions and early deaths, alcohol-fuelled crimes and workplace absences.
Recent studies published by the Scottish government said endemic alcohol abuse in some parts of Scotland led directly to the deaths of 3,000 Scots each year and cost the economy £3.5bn annually in hospital admissions and lost productivity.
But retailers and the drinks industry, including the influential Scotch Whisky Association, have opposed it, warning that there is likely to be legal action to block it under European and global competition and free trade regulations.
They insist it unfairly penalises the majority of responsible drinkers. The Scottish Labour party has also resisted the measure, arguing that it would immediately give the supermarkets and other retailers a £130m windfall in increased profits. They say the major flaw in a blanket minimum price is that, unlike a tax or duty, the extra revenues go directly to retailers and not the Treasury.
Earlier this year both the Tories and Liberal Democrats dropped their opposition to the measure after it emerged that David Cameron was preparing to announce similar proposals for England and Wales.
The UK government is expected to begin a consultation on a 40p minimum price but Sturgeon's announcement is likely to raise pressure on ministers to set it higher, or to match the Scottish proposal.
Sir Liam Donaldson, then chief medical officer for the UK government and the BMA, backed the 50p level several years ago.
The last Sheffield University study found clear evidence that the lower the basic price, the weaker its effects, and warned that the passage of time had greatly reduced the impact of a low minimum price.
In January, researchers at the university's School of Health and Related Research said Sturgeon's previous proposed price of 45p would cut consumption by 3.5%, saving 36 lives in the first year and about 196 a year within a decade.
But according to a similar study in 2010, a 45p price imposed then would save 50 lives in year one, and 225 lives annually within 10 years.
In contrast, in January this year they found that a 50p basic price would cut consumption by 5.7%, and would most directly affect alcoholics, saving 60 lives in the first year and 318 a year within a decade. At 70p a unit, consumption would fall by 16.9%.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Dr John Holmes, a member of the Sheffield research team, said: "Harmful drinkers' consumption would fall by more than 10%, whereas moderate drinkers would see their consumption fall by just 2.5%.
"In terms of how much extra spending that would mean, harmful drinkers would have to spend over £120 extra a year on their alcohol, whereas moderate drinkers would spend just £8 a year more."
Sturgeon's officials released a detailed table setting out how the new policy, which will be introduced to the Scottish parliament for approval within days, will affect current prices.
The cost of Tesco's basic own-brand vodka would jump from £8.72 to £13.13, a rise of £4.41, while Vladivar and Smirnoff would be unaffected; a standard bottle of Tesco's basic whisky would increase in price by £4.03 to £14.00; four cans of Tesco strong dry cider would more than double in price from £1.80 to £4.67, and Carlsberg Special Brew would now cost £7.92, a rise of £1.13.
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