Critics say government could do more to control boozing among the young
A man sips a glass of wine outside a bar in central London. Officials will ban drinking contests in bars in a bid to help tackle Britain's boozy culture, the government said on Tuesday. [AP/2009 file]
LONDON: Tough new rules for pubs and clubs - including a ban on drinking games like the infamous "dentist's chair" - will be introduced in Britain this year in a bid to curb the heavy drinking culture that costs the country billions of pounds a year.
Other promotions like "all you can drink for 10 pounds ($16)", speed drinking competitions and "women drink free" nights will also be prohibited.
But, controversially, bulk offers of cheap alcohol in supermarkets - widely regarded as one of the main sources of Britain's problems with under-age and excessive drinking - will not be affected.
Doctors and health lobbyists argue that the government has failed to wield its most effective weapon, the imposition of minimum price controls on alcohol.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he did not want to target responsible drinkers on low incomes, but that the government and the industry had a duty to act on booze-fueled promotions.
"These practices have a real impact on society, not to mention the lives of those who just want to enjoy a good night out," he said.
The dentist's chair, where drinks are poured directly into the mouth by others, was made famous by the celebrations of footballer Paul Gascoigne at Euro '96. That game - and others that promote mass consumption - will be banned from April and publicans will have to ensure free tap water is made available to revellers.
A second set of rules enforcing compulsory ID checks and making sure smaller alcoholic measures are on sale come into effect in October.
The government says excessive boozing costs Britain up to 12 billion pounds a year and has vowed that any premises that breach the new mandatory code will face stiff penalties.
Publicans and vendors could lose their licences, be fined up to 20,000 pounds ($32,750) or face six months in prison.