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Record fall in alcohol consumption

The UK has seen its biggest fall in alcohol consumption in 60 years, according to new figures from an industry body.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said 2009 saw the sharpest year-on-year decline in alcohol consumption across the board since 1948.

The figures are compiled primarily from HM Revenue and Customs data for the amount of alcohol sold by producers and importers into the UK market.

They follow recent data from the Office of National Statistics which found 39% of men and 31% of women exceed the daily guidelines on how much they should drink.

The BBPA, which represents the brewing and pub sector, said the data showed a 6% decline in total alcohol consumption in 2009, making it the fourth annual decline in five years.

UK drinkers were now consuming 13% less alcohol than in 2004, with consumption remaining below the EU average.

UK taxes on beer remained among the highest compared with other countries and were the second highest duty rate in EU - 10 times higher than in Germany and seven times higher than in France, the organisation said.

Other statistics published in the BBPA Statistical Handbook 2010 show beer is by far the pubgoer's favourite tipple, making up 60% of all alcohol sales in pubs, hotels, and restaurants. Wine is in second place at 17%.

Total spending on beer has reached £17 billion a year, or 41% of all spending on alcohol. The average price of a pint of bitter is £2.58, with lager selling for £2.95. London is the most expensive region to buy a pint, with prices 35% higher than in the North East.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: "These figures will confound many pundits as yet again they confirm that as a nation we are not drinking more. Those who suggest otherwise need to focus on the hard facts. This handbook also reminds us of just how vital a role beer and pubs play in the UK economy in terms of turnover, jobs, and tax revenues. The new numbers show just how closely linked beer is to Britain's struggling pubs, with beer accounting for around 60% of on-trade sales. Policy-makers should take note."

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