27 January 2005

Young women will suffer most from longer licensing hours, says Methodist Church

The Methodist Church warns that women in their 20s and 30s will be those put most at risk by 24-hour drinking. Average weekly consumption among women aged 16-24 rose from 7.3 units in 1992 to 14.1 units in 2002 Ð equivalent to an additional large glass of wine, two gin and tonics and a shot of tequila a week. The government puts the recommended maximum for women at 14 units per week

Anthea Cox, Coordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice, says, "This shows that young women are drinking more and more. This inevitably risks harm to their well-being, their safety and their long-term health. We want all those concerned in this area to work towards a goal of moderate and sensible drinking."

The warning comes as the Church releases the results of its Mocktails competition, which challenged people to come up with the best-tasting recipe for alcohol-free drinks. As well as being a fun way to devise new drinks, the competition also promoted alcohol-free alternatives to alcopops.

Anthea Cox: "We want people, especially young women, to know that you don't have to drink to excess when you go out and that it is still possible to have a great time. It is important people to have alcohol-free alternatives such as Mocktails, so that they keep control over how much alcohol they consume in an evening. People could alternate between Mocktails and other drinks, or start the evening with Mocktails before moving on.

"Whilst we may all enjoy tales of wild nights out but behind the hype are terrifying real stories of lost property, accidents and even assault. We want people to be able to have a good time and wake up with good memories."

The number of women drinking more than the weekly recommended maximum of 14 units has grown from 10% in 1988 to 17% in 2002, and nearly one in three adults exceed the daily limit of four units for men and three for women at least once a week. Although the Licensing Act is part of the Government's strategy to reduce drinking, Anthea Cox is worried that longer licensing hours send the wrong message. "The longer people can drink," Anthea says, "the more they are likely to drink. Unfortunately the current British culture of drinking is to 'binge' not the gentle concept of cafŽ style bars that you might see elsewhere in Europe. With such rapid growth in excessive drinking, especially among young women and men, an increasing number are going to find themselves with more than just a hangover."

Rachel Lampard, Methodist Secretary for Parliamentary and Political Affairs, welcomes the aspects of the Act giving more power to local authorities and police, but calls for further action. "We are glad that the Government are looking at pilot schemes for controlling disorder," says Rachel.  "We encourage local people to use the new legislation to take an active part in determining local licensing decisions. We want to see more information, via advertising and labelling, to show the alcohol content of drinks and the consequences of heavy drinking."

For the whole population, average alcohol consumption rose from 15.7 to 17 units for men, and from 5.6 to 7.6 units for women in the decade to 2002.  "This is a major concern," says Anthea Cox, "and we fear that the new legislation will not have the desired effect of reducing drinking. Among women aged 16-24, the average weekly consumption is now higher than the recommended maximum. This is a big problem. We welcome Government moves such as the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy, and some of this Act will make it easier to tackle alcohol issues. But you cannot change people's drinking habits by legislation alone, and we fear that this Act will make things worse in the short term."

Mocktails competition winners

1st Prize
Fresh banana and strawberries, pureed, served on crushed ice. Topped with cranberry and orange juice.
J Robertson

2nd Prize
Into a shaker 1/2 filled with ice add 100ml of apple and orange juice, the juice of 1/2 a lime and 2 teaspoons of honey. Share and sieve into champagne flutes. Serve with a twist of orange and a cherry.
M Rhodes

3rd Prize
Blend 1 banana, 1 orange, 5 strawberries, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 1/2 cup of coconut milk.
Amanda Coffman

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