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Under the Licensing Act 2004, all pubs, bars, clubs, and off licences in England and Wales can now apply for 24 hour licences, and from November 2005 they may sell alcohol 24 hours a day. The unsubstantiated theory is that a restriction in licensing hours encourages binge drinking and violence. David Blunkett, when Home Secretary, described the proposals as a “leap in the dark” that risked “worsening the situation” of violent crime and yobbish behaviour. Since then (and perhaps coincidentally), central responsibility has been moved to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
Alcohol misuse, particularly binge drinking in young people, and alcoholic liver disease, are major public health concerns.1 Since the 1970s, alcohol consumption has increased by 50% as a result of a number of factors, including falling prices, the aggressive marketing of drinks towards young people, growing affluence, and more widespread availability. Already, alcohol related diseases are costing the NHS about £1.7 billion every year. Around 17 million working days are lost annually because of alcohol misuse, costing our economy £6.4 billion. Seventy per cent of all weekend night …
Conflicts of interests: Professor Gilmore is Chairman of the Royal College of Physicians’ Alcohol Committee. Dr Moriarty—none declared.