EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing

Binge drink promotions to be banned

20 January 2010

Binge drink promotions to be banned Pub and club promotions that encourage binge drinking will be banned within months in a government retreat from its policy of liberalising licensing laws. Licensees face fines of up to £20,000 or up to six months in jail for offers such as “All you can drink for £10” or “Free drinks for women under 25”.

Source: Times Online
20 January 2010

Today’s announcement of a tougher code of practice is an admission that reforms allowing 24-hour drinking have failed to produce what the former minister Hazel Blears described as a “continental café-bar culture”. Instead, ministers have acted amid rising public concern at the extent of public drunkenness and alcohol-fuelled disorder on the streets. Labour’s private polling has revealed that the issue is an increasing worry for voters.

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said: “Alcohol-related crime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and while the vast majority of retailers are responsible, a minority continue to run irresponsible promotions.”

Speed-drinking games and “dentist’s chairs” — where alcohol is poured directly into the mouths of customers — will also be banned. Pubs and clubs will have to provide free tap water to customers and be required to ask for the identity of anyone who looks under 18. The code will force licensed premises to offer wine in small 125ml glasses as well as the more common 250ml measure. The larger measures of wine have been blamed for increasing drunkenness among women. Pub and club owners will also have to offer small beer and spirit measures.

Parliament will debate the code within the next few weeks, but the measures dealing with irresponsible drinking and making tap water available will come into effect in April, before the general election. The measures on age verification and ensuring that smaller measures are available to customers will come into force on October 1. Ministers have, however, backed down from banning supermarket bulk buys, which have led police to complain that alcohol is being sold for less than bottled water. The mandatory code also avoids an outright end to “happy hours” where drinks are sold cheaply for a certain period of time. Instead, local authorities will have wider powers from the end of this month to impose a ban on happy hours in individual pubs. The announcement comes after the drinks industry’s voluntary scheme was found to be being widely flouted.

It also signals how tackling the booze culture is to be part of the electoral battleground between the two main political parties. A Conservative government would give councils the power to impose a “late-night levy” on off-licences open after 10.30pm and drink venues open after midnight. The Tories are also committed to additional taxes on “problem” drinks, including trebling duty on alcopops, increasing the tax on super-strength beer and doubling the tax on super-strength cider. They will also ban shops from selling alcohol below cost price, but have not promised to end 24-hour drinking or extended opening hours at pubs and clubs.

Ian Gilmore, the President of the Royal College of Physicians, welcomed the code but said it failed to deal with the issue of cheap supermarket drinks.

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