DRINKERS are being urged to take a holiday from alcohol after Christmas as the nation braces itself for its yearly Black Friday of booze today.
The Friday before Christmas is traditionally a day of revelling and last year saw a 114 per cent rise of alcohol sales in pubs, bars and restaurants compared to an average Friday.
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With emergency services expected to bear the brunt, public health officials today launch a print and online campaign encouraging people to make a dry January one of their New Year’s resolutions.
Kevin Fenton, Public Health England director of health and wellbeing, said: “We know that at this time of the year alcohol consumption increases quite markedly.
“Between November and December we see an increase of around 25 per cent in alcohol purchase and consumption.
“We really want to encourage people to be more mindful about the health harms of alcohol intake and what they can do to be more moderate drinkers and reduce the harms from alcohol moving forward.”
Mr Fenton said that while the rest of Europe is seeing a decline in average alcohol consumption, England has witnessed a 9 per cent increase in the past two decades.
It is taking its toll in an increased risk of liver disease, obesity, cancer, dementia and other health problems related to excess drinking, he said.
Figures released by PHE show that £3.7 billion was spent on alcohol in England last December, with total sales of alcohol rising by more than a quarter (28 per cent) from November to December.
Sales of sparkling wine jumped by 88 per cent and liqueurs went up by over half (54 per cent) in that period.
Also referred to as Mad Friday and Black Eye Friday, the last Friday before Christmas is the most popular night for office parties.
It is one of the busiest times of the year for police, hospital A&Es and ambulance services up and down the country.
Jackie Ballard, chief executive of Alcohol Concern charity, said it showed that Britain has a cultural problem with binge drinking.
“There a multitude of problems related to Black Friday, one of which is the impact on individuals’ health if they are drinking more than Government guidelines say they should,” Ms Ballard said.
“Secondly there’s the impact it has on emergency services and hospital admissions.
“There’s the impact on other people on the roads if someone gets behind the wheel and they’ve had too much to drink.
“It is a critical day for the NHS but also it’s a day when people are putting themselves in danger and they are likely to carry on drinking more than they should through the Christmas period.”
The charity has been promoting Dry January for three years and is teaming up with PHE for the first time this year.
Over 17,000 people took part in January 2014, and Alcohol Concern says that independent evaluations found that 72 per cent of those who tried continued to drink at moderate levels six months later.
Ms Ballard argued that while going dry in January was not a solution to Christmas binge drinking or alcoholism, it would give drinkers a chance to change their lives.
“Take a month off, you’ll find at the end of that month you’ve saved money, you feel healthier, you feel more energetic, you have probably lost weight and you can change your relationship with alcohol hopefully for life,” she said.
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