UK alcohol consumption fell by 3.2% in 2008, according to new figures compiled by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).
The group is using the figures, based on HM Revenue & Customs data, to argue against alcohol tax rises and costly redtape that would hit pubs and brewers.
BBPA said the fall would have saved the economy £804m in reduced alcohol-related harm.
The survey also shows:
- Alcohol consumption was 6% lower in 2008 than in 2004 - 8.9 litres per head against 9.5 litres per head
- Consumption has fallen by 4.6% since the introduction of the Licensing Act in 2005, resulting in a saving to the economy of £2.3 billion over the last three years
- The reduced consumption in 2008 could save the economy £8bn over 10 years, according to the Government's own figures
- Of 20 countries where comparable data is available, the UK ranks only 14th in alcohol consumption per head - well behind levels in France and Germany.
The BBPA flagged up the planned mandatory alcohol retailing code - forcing pubs to abide by edicts such as offering drinks in smaller measures and operating Challenge 21 - as a redtape burden that will hit pubs.
Mark Hastings, BBPA director of communications, said: "These figures show that the persistent perception of rising alcohol consumption in the UK is false. The amount we drink as a nation is falling and this is now a consistent trend since the introduction of the Licensing Act in 2005.
"Based on the Government's own method of calculating alcohol related harm, the figures show that current trends are cutting billions from the nation's alcohol harm bill. This calls into question the case for pressing ahead with further punitive increases in tax increases and costly red tape, as the Government seems determined to do. Government policy should be based on the facts not reflect the myths on alcohol.
"The current economic downturn is undoubtedly having a depressive effect on consumption. However, it is equally the case that what is now an established four year downward trend has been heavily influenced by the consistent communication of responsible drinking messaging.
"The industry's investment in and promotion of responsible drinking messages to consumers and initiatives like Drinkaware is helping people make more informed and better choices about their drinking patterns and behaviours."