David Cameron vows to tackle binge drinking 'scandal'


David Cameron: "This is a national problem and it needs a government to focus on it"

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Prime Minister David Cameron has called for bars, supermarkets and the drinks industry in England to do more to help ensure responsible drinking.

On a visit to a hospital in north-east England, he promised to tackle the "scandal" of drunkenness and alcohol abuse that costs the NHS £2.7bn a year.

He suggested the use of US-inspired "drunk tanks", cells to house people overnight while they sober up.

But Labour dismissed Mr Cameron's proposals as "warm words".

The government will publish its alcohol strategy for England later this year.

A ban on the sale of alcohol below cost price - less than the tax paid on it - is set to be introduced in England and Wales from 6 April.

But ministers are expected to go further in the forthcoming strategy, recommending a higher minimum price for drink.

'Costs jobs'

Scotland has already introduced an Alcohol Bill, which could become law before the summer, although ministers have yet to set a minimum cost 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.

Actor Daniel Radcliffe, who admitted struggling with alcohol, says young people feel pressured to drink

It is thought any move could also be open to legal challenges relating to European competition law, which - according to the European Commission - is aimed at pushing down prices for consumers and allowing firms to operate in a free market.

The British Beer and Pub Association said there was "a danger it would be done through higher taxation, which would be hugely damaging to pub-goers, community pubs and brewers, costing thousands of vital jobs".

During his hospital visit, the prime minister criticised the "reckless" behaviour of an "irresponsible" minority and cited figures suggesting alcohol-related costs to society could total between £17bn and £22bn a year.

'Sense of respect'

He said the last decade had seen a "frightening growth" in the number of people who thought it was "acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread fear and increase crime", many of them under the legal drinking age.

Figures suggest alcohol abuse costs accident and emergency services £1bn.

Mr Cameron promised to help the NHS "rise to the challenge", including putting more police on patrol in hospitals.

GP Peter Baines: "Right to focus on alcohol and the problems it can cause"

"We need innovative solutions to confront the rising tide of unacceptable behaviour," he said.

"This isn't just about more rules and regulation. It's about responsibility and a sense of respect for others."

He added: "Every Friday and Saturday night A&E can be overrun with people drunk and incapable who have injured themselves."

Mr Cameron urged the drinks industry, supermarkets, pubs and clubs to work with the government to ensure that "responsible drinking becomes a reality and not just a slogan".

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group which represents drinks producers, said his members were "determined to be effective partners in tackling public drunkenness, which is an embarrassment to us all".

Simon Antrobus, chief executive of alcohol treatment charity Addaction, said that while it was important to ensure drinks retailers took more responsibility, properly-funded support for charities helping problem drinkers was also vital.

"Addressing the root cause of someone's problems is, in our professional experience, the most effective way to tackle their drinking," he said.

For Labour, shadow health minister Jamie Reed said: "There's undoubtedly an important debate to be had about alcohol and when the government publishes its long-awaited strategy we'll play our part.

"But today's warm words from the prime minister look hastily thrown together. On a day when over 100,000 members of the public have joined NHS staff in calling on David Cameron to drop his reckless Health Bill, he is dodging the difficult questions and desperately trying to distract attention."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    There's being drunk and there's behaving drunk.

    Booze is not intrinsically a cause of violent behaviour. The culture, in this country, is.

    I have seen primary-aged children in school behaving drunk staggering about on the playground, shouting, screaming and picking mock fights. In a couple of years they will be doing it for real.

    Why don't we just tackle drunk behaviour with existing laws?

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Geopolitical this, socioeconomic that... People drink, sleep around, act rowdily with friends etc because they enjoy it and so do their peers. This has happened for generations and the difference nowadays is that 'drunk and disorderlies' aren't stopped and either arrested or packed off home soon enough. When I binged as a youth I'd be refused entry & go home, nowadays people just get more drunk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    There isn't an easy fix, overuse of alcohol is a symptom, not a cause. Bump up the prices, collect the tax and be seen to be 'doing good' is not an intelligent response. The answer lies in the reasons people drink, and government policy and failed social engineering is part of that. I suppose their answer would be, 'work harder, working solves all problems...'

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    This is a back door tax rise, which will make many more people unemployed and close more pubs and clubs any more increase in the price of alcohol will open up gold mine, an illegal tax free market for bootlegers from eastern europe bogus vodka is beening made on the backs of lorrys all around the U.K. and sold in many corner shops. prices in local pubs are too high because of tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    I agree with Harry (3). I live there too, and a few years ago I used to enjoy going out in the evenings for a drink, a meal out, or a walk by the sea in the summer. Now I stay indoors after 5.00 p.m. But increasing the price of drinks will not solve the problem, which has become much worse since the extension of licencing hours .

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    A start would be to ban supermarkets from selling alchahol products , go back to just allowing pubs and off licenses to sell alchahol, and go back to the old pub hours of 6pm to 10.30 pm

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    A minimum alcohol price would target a very specific segment of the alcohol consuming public. A minimum price of 50p per unit would only affect off-licence sales of the cheapest drinks. It would have no impact at all on on-sales or or on the type of drinks that are consumed by more affluent consumers and it will be regressive. Arguably, these are the segments where alcohol abuse is most damaging.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Saw a programme recently where it took 7 cops to arrest 1 drunk at closing time in a town centre. What a waste of time and effort. They should have a water cannon cruising the streets at closing time. Any trouble, give them a good soaking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    The Tories want to import everything from America - not least the lousy health service that lets the poor die, poverty, inequality, corruption, elitism, materialism and political slavery!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Perhaps if some of our binge drinkers had more purpose in their lives, there would be less reason to get 'out of it'? Many people do mind-numbing jobs on low pay and have low self-esteem. They can't afford to make the step to adulthood and responsibility so they stay as perpetual daft teenagers, drinking away Saturday nights.
    The solution is more complex than Mr C's usual PR would have us believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    An article on binge drinking on HYS. Well that's a new one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    if alcohol causes so much trouble why is it still legal when they continue to make cannabis illegal, if everyone was getting stoned on nights out there would be alot less fights out in town centres on Friday nights trust me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    I fear another sound bite. Chief Constables are already struggling with cuts to front line officers where are the extra police for A&E and drunk tanks to come from. There also seems to be no appetite to actually make drunken offenders pay for the real cost of their behaviour. Cameron just like Blair nice presentation no substance

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    What about creating a list of treatments and prices relating to alcohol injuries, on a till receipt type pamphlet, and giving it to businesses to handout to employees on a Friday afternoon before people hit the pub? I genuinely believe people have no idea what healthcare costs because it's always been free. In Holland u pay a little each month for h/c, and if you don't use it you get rebate. :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    How about taking the young drunks home to mum and dad while still throwing up and let them deal with it . bring them back out next day while hugely hung over to clean up the streets , or the hospital waiting rooms , Doctors and Nurses plus the police must be really sick of picking up the mess these people make , not to mention the appalling danger they put themselves in and others in .

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Is this yet another diversion. One wonders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Is it little wonder people want to binge drink in this country? Open your eyes David Cameron and take a look at the reality around you. You and you big business buddies have created a right sorry society to live in. Many turn to drink to try switch off and 'kid' themselves on they're having a fantastic time. Oh really! I want to emigrate from this dump.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I agree with the point of reducing TAX in pubs and increasing it for ‘off-sales’, but that is not the only answer. Bring back the off-licence and stop handing alcohol sales licences to anyone who applies for one; because where I live there are ten small shops that sell alcohol and some are really not bothered about selling to the intoxicated or underage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    The supermarkets cause this problem ("please drink responsibly" at 40p a tin - yeah right) and they have caused community pubs to close.
    The supermarkets need to clear it up

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    The parents are to blame . Fine them or make them attend classes of responsibilty.


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