Miércoles 14 de Diciembre de 2005, Ip nº 139

Three drinks and you're out: the pub rationing plan
Por Marc Horne

ONE of Britain’s leading surgeons has called on the government to introduce curbs on the sale of alcohol, limiting the amount that customers can consume per visit to a pub or bar.

John Smith, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, believes that such restrictions would be the logical next step to improving the nation’s health following the ban on smoking in public buildings.

Smith believes regulations in Britain could save lives while cutting alcohol-related illnesses and violent crime.

“The legislation to ban smoking in public places is very welcome and a big step forward. The logical thing to recognise now is that smoking is bad for you, as is alcohol,” he said.

“Should we now limit the amount of drink that can be served in pubs? If, as a nation, we are serious about trying to prevent illnesses associated with social habits, then this is something that must be considered seriously.

“I think for a government to follow the American model of saying, for the benefit of each patron, we will provide three drinks only, would be very interesting to look at.”

Restrictions already operate in some American states. The city council in Santa Monica, California, has powers to impose a three-drink ban in bars while voluntary schemes operate in Virginia, Oregon and Massachusetts.

Last week the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), which advises on the cost effectiveness of providing treatment on the National Health Service, said patients who endangered their health by smoking, gross overeating or heavy drinking should be denied medical treatment.

Currently guidelines recommend that men should drink no more than four units a day, which is the equivalent of two pints of beer, two glasses of wine or four measures of spirits. Women are advised to drink no more than three units.

Smith, who hopes his views will become the college’s policy, said that it was up to ministers to decide on the practicalities of a ban.

“I realise that not everyone is likely to agree with this and there will be those who will claim it would be another example of the nanny state,” he said.

“I also realise that the implications commercially for hotels and publicans would be huge, because we all know that they make a lot of their money through mark-ups on drink. But it is the logical follow-up to banning smoking in pubs and other public places. As a wine lover I would be prepared to lead by example.”

Professor Roger Williams, the consultant surgeon who operated on George Best, the footballer who died last month after years of alcohol-related illnesses and a liver transplant, said that he supported Smith in principle.

“I am in favour of anything that will restrict the availability of alcohol to people, thereby the amount they drink,” said Williams.

“I would doubt that it is a practical measure, but it reinforces the need to restrict alcohol, rather than make it more freely available.”

He added that other measures to cut drinking could include giving clear information on the number of units of alcohol in each drink and increasing taxes. “Any suggestions to reduce alcohol intake are good,” he said.

Professor Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Royal College of Physicians’ alcohol committee, said: “Not allowing people to consume more than three drinks in a pub is a wonderful solution if it was practical. We need to change our culture. At the moment we don’t understand why we’ve got the situation we have.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said such a ban would be unworkable.

“One thing I found during the smoking debate was that some of the medical profession lack common sense when it comes to dealing with real issues in the real world,” he said.
“The idea of restricting the number of drinks is unworkable, impractical and would erode personal freedoms.”

  11/12/2005. Times Online.