David Cameron vow to tackle binge drinking 'scandal'
Published: 15th Feb 2012 02:58:48
Prime Minister David Cameron is set to call for bars, supermarkets and the drinks industry to do more to help ensure responsible drinking.
On a visit to a hospital in north east England he will promise to tackle the "scandal" of drunkenness and alcohol abuse that costs the NHS £2.7bn a year.
He is set to suggest the use of US-inspired "drunk tanks", which house drunks overnight while they sober up.
The government is due to publish its alcohol strategy next month.
Ministers are expected to recommend higher "minimum" prices for drink as part of the proposals.
Scotland has already introduced an Alcohol Bill, which could become law before the summer, although ministers have yet to set a minimum price per unit.
But opponents of a minimum unit price say it is unfair because it penalises all drinkers, not just those who cause or have problems, and it is thought any move could be open to legal challenges relating to European competition law.
Meanwhile, industry groups such as the Portman Group representing manufacturers, and the British Beer and Pub Association, have increasingly promoted their responsible drinking campaigns.
During his hospital visit, the prime minister is expected to criticise the "reckless" behaviour of an "irresponsible" minority and cite figures suggesting the alcohol-related costs to society as a whole may total between £17bn and £22bn a year.
Meeting doctors, nurses, paramedics and police, Mr Cameron is set to say people in town centres, hospitals and police stations across the UK have to cope with the consequences of alcohol abuse every night and the problem is getting worse.
The prime minister will say that the last decade has seen a "frightening growth" in the number of people who think it is "acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread fear and increase crime", adding that many of those drinking to excess are under the legal drinking age.
Mr Cameron is expected to cite figures that suggest £1bn is spent on accident and emergency services alone dealing with issues related to alcohol abuse.
He is due to outline how the government will set attempt to help emergency services "rise to the challenge" when laying out its forthcoming alcohol strategy.
More police officers on patrol in accident and emergency departments are expected to be among the "innovative" solutions put forward by the prime minister.
"Whether it's the police officers in A&E that have been deployed in some hospitals, the booze buses in Soho and Norwich, or the drunk tanks used abroad, we need innovative solutions to confront the rising tide of unacceptable behaviour," he is expected to say.
"This isn't just about more rules and regulation. It's about responsibility and a sense of respect for others," he will say, calling on the drinks industry, supermarkets, pubs and clubs to work with government to ensure that "responsible drinking becomes a reality and not just a slogan".
Labour has already indicated it also backs minimum pricing.
Last December, shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said "all the medical evidence points to the need for a minimum price per unit of alcohol. Alcohol abuse is not just a health issue, it is a public order issue."
According to Downing Street, there were 200,000 hospital admissions in 2010-11 with alcohol as the primary factor.
The £2.7bn which alcohol abuse is estimated to cost the UK equates to £90 for every taxpayer.
This is part of a wider cost to society from alcohol of between £17bn and £22bn per annum.
In 2010-11 alone there were around 200,000 hospital admissions with a primary alcohol-related diagnosis, which was 40% than in 2002-03.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. David Cameron vow to tackle binge drinking 'scandal'. [Online] (Updated 15 Feb 2012)
Available at: http://www.manchesterwired.co.uk/news.php/225397-David-Cameron-vow-to-tackle-binge-drinking-scandal [Accessed 20th May 2013]
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