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

The Methodist Church warns that women in their 20s and 30s willbe those put most at risk by 24-hour drinking. Average weeklyconsumption among women aged 16-24 rose from 7.3 units in 1992 to14.1 units in 2002 Ð equivalent to an additional large glass ofwine, two gin and tonics and a shot of tequila a week. Thegovernment puts the recommended maximum for women at 14 units perweek

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

The warning comes as the Church releases the results of itsMocktails competition, which challenged people to come up with thebest-tasting recipe for alcohol-free drinks. As well as being a funway to devise new drinks, the competition also promotedalcohol-free alternatives to alcopops.

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

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

The number of women drinking more than the weekly recommendedmaximum of 14 units has grown from 10% in 1988 to 17% in 2002, andnearly one in three adults exceed the daily limit of four units formen and three for women at least once a week. Although theLicensing Act is part of the Government's strategy to reducedrinking, Anthea Cox is worried that longer licensing hours sendthe wrong message. "The longer people can drink," Anthea says, "themore they are likely to drink. Unfortunately the current Britishculture of drinking is to 'binge' not the gentle concept of cafŽstyle bars that you might see elsewhere in Europe. With such rapidgrowth in excessive drinking, especially among young women and men,an increasing number are going to find themselves with more thanjust a hangover."

Rachel Lampard, Methodist Secretary for Parliamentary andPolitical Affairs, welcomes the aspects of the Act giving morepower to local authorities and police, but calls for furtheraction. "We are glad that the Government are looking at pilotschemes for controlling disorder," says Rachel.  "We encouragelocal people to use the new legislation to take an active part indetermining local licensing decisions. We want to see moreinformation, via advertising and labelling, to show the alcoholcontent of drinks and the consequences of heavy drinking."

For the whole population, average alcohol consumption rose from15.7 to 17 units for men, and from 5.6 to 7.6 units for women inthe decade to 2002.  "This is a major concern," says AntheaCox, "and we fear that the new legislation will not have thedesired effect of reducing drinking. Among women aged 16-24, theaverage weekly consumption is now higher than the recommendedmaximum. This is a big problem. We welcome Government moves such asthe Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy, and some of this Act will makeit easier to tackle alcohol issues. But you cannot change people'sdrinking habits by legislation alone, and we fear that this Actwill 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 orangejuice, the juice of 1/2 a lime and 2 teaspoons of honey. Share andsieve into champagne flutes. Serve with a twist of orange and acherry.
M Rhodes

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