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Off-licence link to drink illnesses

There is a statistical link between the number of off-licences in an area and the number of underage drinkers admitted to hospital after drinking, a new study suggests.

Campaign group Alcohol Concern commissioned research which found a "statistically significant" link between the two.

They found that across England, excluding London, there is on average a 2:1 relationship between the number of off-licences per 100,000 people and hospital admissions by underage drinkers for problems such as alcohol poisoning or intoxication.

According to Alcohol Concern, London has lower levels of alcohol consumption than the national average, which they said was explained by the greater ethnic demographic mix.

The research, carried out by Nikki Coghill from the University of the West of England, also showed that nearly 10% of all alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under-18s in England, excluding London, are directly linked to the concentration of off-licences in that area.

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said: "It is a sobering thought that the number of off-licences in any one area has an impact on under-18s drinking and ending up in hospital.

"It is a failing of the current system that so many licences are being granted without due consideration to young people's health.

"Local licensing committees are currently operating with one arm tied behind their backs. Current licensing legislation does not give licensing committees enough power to restrict high density of licensed premises.

"A new health objective should be included in the Licensing Act to enable local authorities to refuse new licences in order to reduce alcohol-related harm and protect young people."

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK and Royal College of Physicians special adviser on alcohol, said: "This research further underlines the need for a comprehensive alcohol strategy from the Government which tackles the affordability, promotion and the availability of alcohol."

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