Alcohol consumption in the UK is falling at the fastest rate for more than 60 years, new figures released today reveal.
According to statistics from official HM Revenue & Customs data, the amount people are drinking fell by more than eight per cent to 3.81 litres per head in the first half of 2009.
This is compared with 4.15 litres per head in the same period of last year.
The last time the nation's alcohol consumption fell by more than this was during 1948 when it fell by 11 per cent over the course of the year.
The amount people drink has now been on a strong downward trend for four and a half years, since a peak in 2004.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), which compiled the figures, said it calls into question the need for more legislation to tackle alcohol-related issues - such as the mandatory code of practice, which could cost the industry £300m.
Brigid Simmonds, the BBPA's chief executive, said: "When it comes to effective policies to tackle alcohol harm, we need a debate based on the real facts… as doctors keep telling us things are getting worse, these figures cast severe doubt on the claims often made that the best policies for reducing alcohol harm are those that reduce everyone's drinking."
The BBPA also attacked the much-touted Sheffield University report on tackling alcohol-related issues.
If the Sheffield calculations were correct, claims the BBPA, then the fall in consumption of more than six per cent between 2004 and 2008 should have resulted in a fall in alcohol-related hospital admissions yet the medical profession regularly reports rising hospital admissions. The BBPA claim this proves that blanket policies will not tackle the problem and targeted action is needed instead.
Simmonds added: "What we need is a new debate about effective policy measures that are clearly targeted at the minority who misuse alcohol. Our industry is open to that debate and wants to be part of the solution."