Binge drinking – the handy catch-all term for alcohol-related antisocial behaviour – is rarely out of the headlines and, if the general media coverage is to be believed, the problem is as bad as it has ever been.
In fact, general levels of alcohol consumption in the UK have fallen in recent years, with Government statistics revealing that the number of litres of 100% alcohol consumed dropped from 9.5 per head in 2004 to 8.9 in 2008.
But these figures have done nothing to dampen the rise of the so-called ‘new temperance movement’. November 2007 saw the launch of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), a lobby group comprising of 21 health and temperance organisations, calling for hefty rises in alcohol tax and restrictions on the way booze is marketed.
This is a message backed by the influential British Medical Association (BMA), which has regularly demanded crackdowns on alcohol marketing including, in September 2009, a call for a complete ban on advertising alcohol.
And, while the pub industry has done its best to argue that binge drinking is a societal problem that new layers of legislation will do nothing to address, the Government appears to be falling in with the health lobby.
Alcohol tax has been raised in consecutive Budgets – despite proof that the Treasury’s tax take from pubs has fallen as a result due to widespread closures – while a mandatory code on the sale and promotion of alcohol will give local authorities more power to take action against licensed operators for problem drinking.
The industry will continue to argue that other issues, such as hefty discounts in supermarkets and pre-loading (revellers drinking at home before going out), are largely to blame for problem drinking, but while the Government is beginning to look at the role of the retailers, it is unlikely to side with the pub sector over the powerful health lobby any time soon.
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Binge-drinking on the web
Binge-drinking: Fact sheet from Alcohol Concern