More than 10 million adults consume dangerous amounts of alcohol, and drink-related hospital admissions are soaring, ministers warned as they told pubs and clubs to scrap cynical ploys aimed at boosting alcohol sales to young revellers.
Bars face tough new restrictions on "happy hour" and "drink all you can" promotions, while off-licences and supermarkets will be banned from setting up cheap-alcohol displays.
The Department of Health (DoH) yesterday calculated that the cost of alcohol abuse was up to £25.1bn a year, including a £2.7bn bill to the NHS.
It dramatically revised upwards to 811,000 the latest number of hospital admissions for the treatment of alcohol-related conditions, including liver failure, mental illness and forms of cancer linked to excessive drinking.
The figure is four times higher than previously believed and the numbers are rising by about 80,000 a year, suggesting they will pass one million by 2009. A total of 15,000 deaths every year are caused by alcohol abuse.
Alcohol consumption per head has soared by 60 per cent since 1970, according to DoH research, as drink has become more affordable and with the growing popularity of stronger beers and wines.
Dawn Primarolo, the Public Health minister, said 26 per cent of the population – equivalent to more than 10 million people – drank to a "harmful level". She added: "These people could be drinking themselves into an early grave."Reuse content