It's a Northern European thing, at least on this side of the pond.
But then many of our European cousins work shorter hours, have more lesuire time, maybe there is a British tendancy to 'cram it all in'.
A heavy drinking culture though is not new here, it's just taken on a more in your face, garish form and much more heavily reported form.
A couple of centuries ago London was awash with Gin Palaces, with major effects on the soceity of the day, almost the crack dens of their era.
The old workling class pub culture was a staple of industrial Britiain, however it was confined largely to pubs, to beer and was really a male preserve.
As to the idea of charging, most here, however appalled they might be at the costs of booze abusing, will see that as a thin edge of the wedge.
What next? Who eats healthy all the time, every day? That includes snacks and treats.
It's known that the ( heavy compared to the US) taxation on tobacco here raises enough revenue to offset the health effect strain on the NHS, even after you divide it up in government spending.
Raising the costs here has been a factor in the steep decline in smoking over decades.
The answer is to raise, signifcantly, the prices through not just direct taxation, but also through outlawing the heavy discounting done by supermarkets, the offers in pubs/bars, in fact the latter two will do more than raising direct taxes.
It is the rise of these in the past decade or so that has increased drinking.
a problem, but we must also beware of press generated moral panics.
Plus look at the whole picture, those who die early through smoking, or by excessive drinking, don't live to draw the state pension and other costs of caring for the elderly!
[Edited 2010-01-06 08:52:13]