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Reduction in alcohol consumption

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The introduction of new licensing laws has been linked to a 5.3% decrease in the amount of alcohol drunk in the UK in the last two years.

Statistics from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) show that alcohol consumption fell by 3.3% in 2006, accelerating the two percent fall seen in 2005.

This means Britons drink an average of 8.9 litres each year and that 12 other EU countries have higher consumption levels than in the UK.

Less drinking, longer opening hours

BBPA director of communications Mark Hastings pointed out that the reduction began in the wake of new licensing laws extending opening hours for many drinking establishments.

"Although it is too early to say if this is a long-term trend, these are certainly very interesting figures, in view of the intense public debate in recent months about Britain's drinking habits," he commented.

"While a small minority continue to use alcohol in an irresponsible way, it's clear that the change in the nation's licensing laws hasn't unleashed an apocalyptic 'free for all' in alcohol consumption."

Clampdown on underage drinking

One factor which could extend the trend next year is a government crackdown on selling alcohol to under-age drinkers.

The Home Office claims higher penalties on retailers imposed over the last three years have cut the numbers of children unlawfully drinking alcohol.

It says an enforcement campaign implemented by police and trading standards officers found children were able to obtain alcohol in 14.7 per cent of cases.

"These results show that the situation in relation to underage sales has improved and the industry has played a major part in delivering this improvement," deputy assistant commissioner Chris Allison of the Association of Chief Police Officers said.

"However, underage sales still remains an issue and the industry needs to maintain its focus on it," he added.

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