Report links off-licence numbers with under-age casualties

Alcohol Concern claims to have found a link between the density of off-licences and under-age drinking.

The charity said its research proved there was a need to change the law so that licensing authorities in England and Wales could limit the number of drinks retailers in a particular area.

The study found that, excluding London, on average a 2:1 relationship exists between the number off-licences per 100,000 of population and hospital admissions by under-age drinkers for alcohol-related issues.

For every two off-licences per 100,000 of population there was one under-18 year old per 100,000 of population being admitted to hospital due to drinking according to the analysis, undertaken by Dr Nikki Coghill at University of West of England.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “It is a sobering thought that the numbers of off-licences in any one area has an impact on under-18s drinking and ending up in hospital. It is a failing of the current system that so many licences are being granted without due consideration to young people’s health.

“Local licensing committees are currently operating with one arm tied behind their backs. Current licensing legislation does not give licensing committees enough power to restrict high density of licensed premises. A new health objective should be included in the Licensing Act to enable local authorities to refuse new licenses in order reduce alcohol-related harm and protect young people.”

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association rejected the findings. Chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: "Alcohol Concern's claims are at odds with their own research which both questions the link between off-licence density and purchase of alcohol while also showing there has been a significant reduction in purchase of alcohol by under-18s, due in large part to the success of schemes such as Challenge 25.  

"What's more the Government's own figures show under-age alcohol consumption has declined in recent years."