Alcohol consumption in the UK is falling at the fastest rate for more than 60 years, research has found.
Figures from HM Revenue & Customs have revealed that the amount of alcohol consumed in the UK fell by more than 8% to 3.81 litres per head in the first half of 2009 compared with 4.15 litres in the same period last year.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which compiled the research, warned that the figures called into question alcohol policies designed by the Government to reduce drinking in the whole population. These include proposals for a mandatory code for pubs which could cost the industry £300m as well as the Sheffield University report on tackling alcohol-related issues.
The organisation argued that claims by some academics and medical lobby groups that a fall in total consumption would lead to significant social benefits, such as a fall in alcohol related hospital admissions, are not being borne out by the facts.
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said that alcohol consumption had been on a firm downward trend for several years.
"When it comes to effective policies to tackle alcohol harm, we need a debate based on the real facts," she said.
"We can now test the academic theories and models, because we now have real life experience of falling total consumption. As doctors keep telling us things are getting worse, these figures cast severe doubt on the claims often made that the best policies for reducing alcohol harm are those that reduce everyone's drinking.
"In reality, alcohol policies designed to reduce drinking in the whole population are misguided. Controls on the total amount we drink will not work. What we need is a new debate about effective policy measures that are clearly targeted at the minority who misuse alcohol. Our industry is open to that debate and wants to be part of the solution."
By Rosie Birkett
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