UK law to stop further sales of booze to drunk customers routinely flouted

January 15, 2014, British Medical Journal

Bar tenders in clubs and pubs are routinely flouting UK legislation intended to prevent further sales of alcohol to those who are already drunk, reveals a study of purchase patterns in one UK city, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Preventing sales of alcohol to those who are already very drunk would ease the strain on public services and protect long term health, and should be a public health priority, say the authors.

They base their conclusions on the results of a 'sting' in which student actors, aged between 20 and 22, attempted to buy alcohol while pretending to be drunk in 73 randomly selected pubs, clubs and bars in one city in North West England.

All purchase attempts were made between 2100 and 0300 hours, on every day of the week bar Mondays and Tuesdays during May 2013.

One person played the fake drunk, staggering to the bar; the other took the role of the sober friend. The actors took advice from police, who regularly deal with young people who have had too much to drink on the streets of the city, to boost the authenticity of their performance.

The various venues were assessed for 10 well recognised indicators of poorly managed and problematic establishments: few seats; cheap alcohol promotions; young bar tenders; young clientele; crowding; poor lighting; rowdiness; dirtiness; and prevailing levels of drunkenness.

Four out of five attempts were successful (61 out of 73; 84%), and service rates were always high, irrespective of the day or time. Sex of the purchaser made no difference to the response of the bar tender.

Most sales occurred without hesitation, despite the fact that bar tenders often recognised drunkenness by either commenting directly to the actor or to another server, or by rolling their eyes.

And on almost one in five occasions (18%), bar tenders tried to 'upsell' the actor a double rather than a single measure.

The likelihood of being served while drunk rose according to the number of indicators of poor management there were.

All establishments with eight or more of these indicators were prepared to serve compared with two thirds of those with none. Only greater seating provision and older bar staff boosted the odds of service refusal.

The actors were also significantly more likely to be served at venues with door supervisors (where 95% got served). But more than two thirds of venues without door supervisors were still prepared to serve drunk customers.

"Continued provision of alcohol to drunks will increase the risks of acute and and social harms, and consequently, the burdens these place on public services and society," write the authors.

They go on to say that their findings suggest that the law preventing the sale of alcohol to people who are already drunk is routinely being broken, as the figures on prosecutions are low (only three convictions nationally in 2010).

"Although our study focused on one city, a lack of prosecution for sales to drunks throughout England suggests this is typical of nightlife environments nationally," they say.

"With policies to prevent alcohol related harm by increasing alcohol prices failing to be implemented, increased use of legislation preventing sales of to drunks should be considered a public health priority," they conclude.

Explore further: Poland unveils plan to fight drunk driving

More information: Does legislation to prevent alcohol sales to drunk individuals work? Measuring the propensity for night-time sales to drunks in a UK city, Online First, DOI: 10.1136/jech-2013-203287

Related Stories

Poland unveils plan to fight drunk driving

January 7, 2014
Poland's government on Tuesday unveiled a plan to fight driving under the influence, after a drunk driver killed six pedestrians on New Year's Day.

Energy drinks plus alcohol pose a public health threat

December 2, 2013
Mixing energy drinks with alcohol is riskier than just drinking alcohol alone, according to a new study that examines the impact of a growing trend among young adults.

By the numbers: A simple ten step approach to reducing the harms of alcohol

January 7, 2014
Much the same way individuals are encouraged to know their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers to maintain a healthy lifestyle, a new editorial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology urges the European public to know and ...

Drunk driving can make holiday season deadly

December 23, 2013
(HealthDay)—The holiday season is one of the most dangerous times of the year on U.S. roads. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, as many as 900 people nationwide could die in crashes caused by drunk driving, safety ...

Think alcohol and energy drinks are nothing to worry about? Think again

September 27, 2013
Heavy drinkers are mixing alcohol with energy drinks to enable them to drink longer and get more drunk. While the trend is concerning many public health researchers – because the risks remain unknown – others are attempting ...

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.