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Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 16:14 UK

The Big Drink debate

Lucy Breakwell
Lucy Breakwell
The Politics Show North West

Pint of beer on a bar with beer pumps. c/o Getty images
How much do you drink?
On Monday 12 May 2008 the NHS in the North West is launching 'the Big Drink Debate' - the largest survey of its kind ever to be undertaken in the region.

The anonymous questionnaire will be asking 650,000 people about the role alcohol plays in their lives.

Worrying figures

It might come as a surprise to read the following statistics:

- the North West has one of the worst drinking levels in the country. 29% of people drink at hazardous or harmful levels of alcohol.

- last year more than 73,000 recorded crimes were related to alcohol. Violent crimes resulting from over consumption of alcohol have increased by 5% over the last two years.

- more than a quarter of the North West's men drink over eight units on at least one day of the week.

- a quarter of 11-15 year olds drink alcohol.

Not an honest debate?

It is easier to buy alcohol. There are far more places selling it and it is cheaper than it has ever been.

Silhouette of drinker with bottle
Alcohol is more likely to shorten life than lengthen it.
According to Professor Mark Bellis from Liverpool John Moores University:

"We're not having an honest debate about alcohol. There's a lot of misunderstanding about what's happening. A lot of people think alcohol's doing them some good. But it's much more likely to shorten your life than lengthen it.

"Young people are seeing sexy images of alcohol on billboards and on television. We have to balance that with better education about the effects of alcohol.

"People don't recognise their own alcohol habits. They tend to think of it as someone else's problem.

"We need to be more honest with ourselves about our drinking habits."

Killing pub culture

We will also be hearing from Margo Grimshaw.

Margo has been a landlady in Blackburn for over 30 years and thinks that the 24 hour licensing laws introduced in 2005 are killing off traditional British pub culture.

A binge drinking culture?

She says that with the old licensing laws, old and young were in pub's drinking together.

The young would learn not only what to drink, but how to behave in social situations.

But now pubs are empty until very late - the older ones find them quiet and boring and decide to stay at home, instead buying cheap booze from supermarkets.

The young ones come and late and are fiercely targeted with cheap drinks, leading to all sorts of problems.

Traditional pubs replaced

A study by academics at Lancaster University backs up what Margo is saying. Their study suggests that inter-generational drinking and socialising has been virtually wiped out.

They say the traditional "spit and sawdust" British pub has been forced to give way to chrome cocktail bars where the seating has been removed and music booms out.

This has put an end to any socializing and instead the emphasis is on getting as drunk as you can with special offers and shots.

We will be joined in the studio by the North West's Director of Public Health, Ruth Hussey, and the Assistant Chief Constable of Cheshire Police Gary Shewan.

Watch The Politics Show on Sundays at 1200 BST on BBC One.


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