Letter: Sober pubs

Sir: In response to Professor David Ball's comments on "pub hours peril" (letter, 27 November), we have for long proposed more relaxed licensing hours, primarily because we believe that drinking within the socially controlled environment of the traditional pub acts as a barrier to excessive consumption.

Over-consumption of alcohol is often the result of social, cultural or even genetic problems. It is fuelled by poverty, unemployment, and low self-esteem. It is not a coincidence that the group which has been most affected by such problems is young men within the 18-26 category, precisely the group that is rightly associated with "circuit" drinking (prolonged and often troublesome pub crawls around city centres).

Individuals are not going to stop over-drinking merely because access to pubs is restricted. On the contrary, making the traditional pub a less comfortable or available outlet will focus these problem drinkers on the less easily regulated off-trade, and will result in far more social order problems, not less.

DAVID HAWKINS

Campaign for Real Ale

St Albans, Hertfordshire

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