Pubs and bars could face tougher regulations over the sale of alcohol following a major consultation about England`s drinking culture.
A review of the alcohol industry by KPMG, released today, has found that voluntary regulations are not being followed by many in the industry, prompting the government to make them compulsory in a bid to stop alcohol abuse.
Drinks retailers and producers are being given until the end of the year to shape up, or they may be forced to sell drinks in a range of sizes, restrict happy-hour promotions and ensure customers know how many alcohol units are in their drinks at the point of sale.
Owners may also have to give extra training to their bar staff to recognise and refuse alcohol to underage or drunk customers.
Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "The drinks industry has a vital role to play if we are to change the country`s attitudes to alcohol. Some sections of the industry are sticking to the voluntary codes, others are blatantly ignoring them. This consultation will decide whether legally binding regulations for retailers and manufacturers to promote sensible drinking are the way forward."
Primarolo said it was vital that the drinks industry give consumers "all the help and information needed to drink at a safer level" after new calculations showed that the cost of alcohol misuse to the NHS is now valued at £2.7bn per year.
However, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association said the government needed to match sensible drinking policy with better enforcement of current laws.
"The drinks industry is demonstrating its commitment to change with programmes such as Challenge 21, Community Alcohol Partnerships and unit awareness campaigns. Let`s tackle the real reasons why some people misuse alcohol; not make the rest of us pay the price," said Chief Executive Jeremy Beadles.