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UK drinking levels fall again

Published:  19 October, 2009

UK alcohol consumption is falling at the fastest rate for more than 60 years according to HM Revenue & Customs data released by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

Drinking levels fell by over 8% to 3.81 litres per head in the first half of 2009 compared with 4.15 litres per head in the same period of 2008. The last time the UK's alcohol consumption fell by more than this was in 1948 when it fell by 11%. 

The BBPA claims levels of drinking in the UK have now been declining for four and a half years, since a peak in 2004. On current trends the amount people drink in the UK could be down to the levels of 10 years ago - 14% down on 2004.

Brigid Simmonds, BBPA's chief executive, said: "Alcohol consumption is not increasing. It has 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.

"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." 

She added: "Partnerships with the police and local authority licensing authorities have to be the way forward, together with strict enforcement of existing laws. Equally, we need to educate the public about the effects of excessive alcohol consumption to encourage them to make better choices and thereby reduce alcohol misuse and the related harms. The BBPA and our members are playing our part and are always looking at what more we can do."