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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Surgeon on glass bottle 'weapon'
Girl drinking beer from a bottle
Lotta bottle: Selling drinks in plastic bottles would prevent more than 15,000 injuries each year, it is claimed
Pubs and clubs should sell bottled beer and alcopops in plastic bottles in order to cut street violence, a conference has heard.

Plastic surgeon Professor Jonathan Shepherd, of the University of Wales College of Medicine, said the switch would prevent thousands of woundings each year.

He told a crime reduction conference on the link between binge drinking and violent disorder: "Glass bottles are a major category of weapon."

But a spokesman for the drinks industry said: "It won't work".

The conference at the Holiday Inn, Newport, run by the crime reduction charity, Nacro Cymru, looked at the soaring rates of binge drinking among young people.
We need to get glass bottles off the streets where they are too often used as weapons
Professor Jonathan Shepherd

Delegates from the drinks industry, the police, public health, the drug and alcohol advisory sector and local authorities heard how happy hours, alcopops, growing affluence and the British obsession with "necking it" as the night goes on all play a part.

The seminar - called Saturday night's alright for fighting? - discussed how to tackle the growing problem of the late-night violence in city, town and even village streets as crowds of heavy drinkers end up on the pavement, competing for taxis, food or nightclubs.

Proposed changes in the licensing laws, likely from 2005, are set to mean more pubs and clubs opening for longer.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd
Quality control: Professor Shepherd says modern plastics need not ruin the flavour of bottled beers

The changes are aimed at creating a more continental-style drinking culture with the focus away from drinking simply to get drunk.

But Professor Shepherd, an expert in treating face wounds who has pioneered a method for hospital casualty units to compile more accurate statistics on the injuries caused - and suffered - by pub and club goers, argues for a more radical move.

He believes licensed premises should take away the weapons which are used in more than 15,000 woundings each year - glass bottles.

He said modern plastics now meant alcohol products need not have a reduced shelf life or their flavour affected by the container.

He said: "We really urgently need to shift to all drinks being sold in plastic bottles.

"We need to get glass bottles off the streets where they are too often used as weapons.

"Plastic bottles won't break - it's when a bottle is used as a club and it breaks that injuries are caused.

He said the sight of plastic bottles and glasses at big sporting occasions should be extended to bars everywhere.

But his plea was dismissed by Dr Martin Rawlings, director of pubs and leisure at the British Beer and Pub Association.

Dr Martin Rawlings
Counter idea: Plastic bottles are still not good enough for keeping alcohol, says Dr Rawlings

He said better customer training for bar staff and more effective punishment for people who launch attacks was more important.

He said: "If changing all our glass was the solution to the problem, we would do it tomorrow, but it won't.

"If people want to fight, they will find a weapon - or they will bring it with them.

"Beer does not keep in plastic bottles. It's no accident that is served in glass bottles - it tastes better that way."




SEE ALSO:
Pub fights 'cost 4m a year'
19 Mar 03  |  Health
Booze ban for street drinkers
23 May 03  |  North West Wales
Time to be called on pub laws
29 Apr 01  |  UK Politics
1m campaign to cut drunkenness
19 Mar 01  |  Health


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