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UK alcohol consumption falling faster than ever

Alcohol consumption in the UK is falling faster than at any time in the past 60 years, prompting calls for more targeted efforts at reducing alcohol-related harm.

According to HM Revenue & Customs figures quoted by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), alcohol consumption fell by over 8% to 3.81 litres per capita in the first half of 2009.

Alcohol consumption is calculated in litres per head of 100% alcohol. Consumption for 2008 was 8.9 litres of pure alcohol (100% abv) per head.

This year’s fall represents the biggest fall in consumption since 1948, the BBPA added.

Citing the academic theories put forward in the Government’s ‘Sheffield Study’ – which concluded that price increases would lead to a decline in consumption, and then a decline in alcohol-related health problems, such as hospital admissions – the BBPA said the 6% fall in alcohol consumption between 2004 and 2008 should have resulted in 20,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions in 2008, but hospitals were still reporting rising admissions.

‘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,’ said BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds.

‘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.’

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Written by Richard Woodard

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