Booze business blamed for binging

Britain's drinks industry may face tough new laws to deal with the country's binge-drinking culture.

by: Michael Kahn: Reuters | 24 Jul 2008

The industry costs the state health system an estimated £2.7 billion pounds each year.

Government and independent reviews suggest the drinks industry is not sticking to its own voluntary labelling standards and show that alcohol abuse is far more damaging to people's health than thought, the Department of Health said.

"The evidence from this series of reviews, and the hospital admissions data, clearly make this the right time to consult on a far tougher approach to the alcohol industry," Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said.

"Some sections of the industry are sticking to the voluntary codes, others are blatantly ignoring them."

The British Beer and Pub Association said it would work with the government but said the right approach is to address the underlying drinking culture rather than legislate and regulate.

Pubs are a big part of British culture but drinking to excess has fuelled a spike in violence and hospital admissions in recent years.

Official figures show that alcohol-related injuries and illnesses accounted for 6 percent of all hospital admissions in 2006, or about 811 000. This is up from about 475 000 admissions in 2002.

And with the government estimating nearly a quarter of the population drinking to a harmful level, Primarolo said the industry and public officials need to work together to get people to consume more safely.

The government said manufacturers have until the end of the year to put voluntary health warnings on bottles and cans or face mandatory requirements to do so.

Other voluntary codes could also become mandatory, including requiring retailers to offer drinks in both small and large sizes, restricting happy hours, and putting alcohol displays in separate store areas and away from the checkout.

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