In a desperate attempt to stop Brits from drinking excessively, U.K. officials are banning drinking games and all-you-can-drink deals at pubs and clubs that cater to the nation’s growing binge-drinking culture.
The crackdown includes outlawing games such as the “dentist’s chair”—where alcohol is continuously poured into a customer’s mouth while they are restrained—along with incorporating compulsory identity checks on customers who look younger than 18 years old. In addition, establishments must provide free tap water and offer customers the choice to select either a single or double spirit, or a small or large glass of wine. Bar owners who break the rules could be fined upward of the equivalent of $34,000, or even spend six months in jail.
According to Britain’s National Health Service, alcoholic liver disease deaths are soaring, along with drinking-induced crimes that cost the U.K. between $13 billion and $22 billion a year. But health experts say the new laws don’t go far enough: it’s “better than nothing,” says Carys Davis, spokesperson for Britain’s Alcohol Concern charity, but the restrictions “seem tame” compared to raising the minimum price of bulk alcohol products (at shops and supermarkets, many alcohol products sell for less than the cost of brand-name mineral water), a move the NHS is lobbying for.
But the idea of raising the minimum cost was shot down by ministers who don’t want to penalize responsible drinkers, especially in a general election year.
Concerns abound about how to deal with binge-drinking Brits—especially teenagers. A survey of 35 countries released last March by the University of the West of England found that the U.K. had the third-highest number of 15- and 16-year-olds with alcohol problems, and the Department of Health revealed that more than 5,000 teenage girls were admitted to hospital in 2008 after binge drinking.