6m funding for alcohol misuse initiative

Twenty areas in the UK with the worst record for alcohol problems are to receive financial support in a £6 million government drive

to stamp out alcohol misuse.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo announced the launch of the Alcohol Improvement Programme at the National Alcohol Conference

last week, where she described

drinking as "the new smoking".

The initiative is designed to help alcoholics receive treatment more

quickly and will include appointing regional alcohol managers tasked with identifying drinkers who are at risk and offering advice.

The money will also be spent on pulling together local information on statistics, hospital admissions and medical conditions and setting up an Alcohol Learning Centre where health services can share best practice.

Primarolo said: "More than a quarter of adults in England drink above

government guidelines and around 15,000 people die because of alcohol every year. We clearly have a serious problem that needs urgent attention ."