A minimum price for alcohol - possibly 50p per unit - is being urged by the country's chief medical officer in a bid to curb binge drinking.
Professor Sir Liam Donaldson is expected to outline measures in his annual report on the nation's health that could double the price of some drinks
It could push the price of a can of beer to £1 and bottle of wine to £4, and is aimed particularly at supermarkets that sell alcohol below cost as "loss leaders".
The move is likely to be welcomed by many health professionals at a time that alcohol-related illnesses costs the NHS £3 billion a year and the total cost of alcohol misuse to the taxpayer is £25 billion a year.
The move has been criticised by David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, set up by drinks manufacturers to promote sensible drinking.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: "This would hit the pockets of hard-working families who are already struggling to make ends meet, and it would not deter those people who drink to get drunk."
But the Department of Health indicated there was little prospect of the proposal being adopted while households were being squeezed by the recession.