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U.K. bans drinking contests, other boozy promotions

Officials will ban drinking contests in bars and force pub owners to offer patrons tap water in a bid to help tackle Britain's boozy culture, the government said today.

Doctors and health lobbyists said, however, that the government had failed to wield its most effective weapon — the imposition of minimum price controls on alcohol.

The raft of new measures is "better than nothing," according to Carys Davis, spokeswoman for the Alcohol Concern charity. She said "it does seem tame," although she acknowledged that the ban on drinking contests and other promotions could help control bingeing.

Alcohol consumption has emerged as a political issue in recent years in Britain. Weekends see many town centers awash with young people staggering from one bar to the next, and government statistics suggest the country's alcohol-related death rate has doubled since 1991.

Last year Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson suggested price controls could lead to nearly 100,000 fewer hospital admissions and 45,000 fewer crimes a year.


Home Secretary Alan Johnson told BBC radio today that he hadn't ruled out minimum pricing, but he didn't want to penalize "responsible drinkers on low incomes."

The new rules — expected to come into affect this year after being approved by Parliament — would ban speed-drinking competitions and all-you-can-drink offers. Bars would be required to offer drinks in smaller measures and tap water for free.

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