The pub industry has been urged to prepare itself for a major and lengthy battle with health lobby groups over the issue of alcohol.
Speaking at the Publican Conference in central London today, Mark Hastings, director of communications at the British Beer & Pub Association, said the industry faced one of the most "concerted and sustained threats to its commercial viability ever" over lobbying on alcohol.
"That's coming from the level of the World Health Organisation, from the European Union and our own government," he added.
"Alcohol is the big issue at the moment and it's absolutely essential that our industry gears up for what is going to be a considerable battle over the next few months and years."
Hastings claimed many lobbyists working for public health groups, who campaigned on tobacco, had moved across to focus on alcohol.
"The same skills set, the same tactics, the same people are involved with the issue of alcohol lobbying, that what's gives it the profile it now has," he said.
The issue over how to deal with the problems associated with alcohol will heat up next week when the Alcohol Health Alliance, made up of 21 health and temperance groups, is launched. Among its proposals is a 10 per cent increase on alcohol tax.
During the debate on how the industry can effectively lobby government, Robert Humphreys, secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group claimed that in parliament there was "a body of new puritanism, which is quite sinister."
Over the issue of alcohol abuse, Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers called for individuals to take more responsibility for their actions.
"The industry would like to share some of the burden of the problems with individuals themselves," he said.
Hastings later attacked the industry over its handling of the Licensing Act, prior to its implementation. "For a whole two years our industry turned in on itself and started arguing what the message should be about licensing." He argued that a "massive vacuum" was created which allowed negative messages about its possible effects to get through.
However, he later added that the industry should not try to "wriggle off the hook" over the issues around alcohol.