Norwich coroner issues cheap alcohol warning

Norwich's coroner has today told of his concern about the dangers of the widespread availability of cheap alcohol following an increase in the numbers of people drinking themselves to death.

William Armstrong has urged people to opt for sensible, social drinking at their local pub, where drinking levels can be monitored, as opposed to drinking excessive amounts of cheap alcohol bought from shops. Mr Armstrong, pictured, the Greater Norfolk coroner, said: 'From my perception there's a significant increase in the number of deaths where excess alcohol consumption has been a significant factor.

'There are deaths, of course, which arise from medical conditions caused by long-time alcohol addiction; deaths where people have accidents as a result of drinking too much alcohol. But there's also, from my perspective, an increase in the number of deaths from acute alcohol poisoning where people have consumed massive amounts in one session and died from alcohol poisoning.

'I think there's no doubt that there is research which shows there's a link between deaths involving excessive drinking and readily available very cheap alcohol and I think we need to encourage more people to drink sociably and sensibly in pubs instead of going out and purchasing cheap alcohol from supermarkets.'

Mr Armstrong has also issued a warning to people about the dangers of drinking purely to get drunk and called for a more sensible approach to alcohol to be adopted.

He said: 'We need to have fewer people drinking simply to get drunk because that is dangerous and there's a number of cases where people have drunk themselves to death.

'Drinking ought to be a social activity and part of social interaction rather than an end in itself.

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'That's why I support drinking in pubs. Pubs, for the most part, encourage sensible, social drinking. I think that's a point that needs to be made. It's been made by the pubs, but it needs to be made by other people as well. Most of the people who have drunk themselves to death have not been drinking in pubs - they've purchased cheap drinks from supermarkets.

'People have died from alcohol poisoning which has resulted in them spending less than �10 - that's the nonsense of it.'

Mr Armstrong's words come as pubs across the city, and throughout the country, have hit out at the impact the sale of cheap alcohol in supermarkets and shops has had on the pub industry as a whole.

Sue Coleman, a member of the Norfolk and Norwich Licensed Victuallers' Association (LVA) and landady of the Stanley pub on Magdalen Road, Norwich, said she endorsed Mr Armstrong's comments.

She said: 'I would agree with him. When you're drinking in a pub, you're not just drinking for the sake of it - you're there for the social aspect.

'When you buy a drink at the bar you will be assessed by the bar person as to whether they think you should have any more and if they think you've had too much they won't serve you. You don't get that at home - there's no one to say that's enough.'

She said she was particularly concerned about the availability of cheap alcohol in terms of young people who 'load up' on alcohol at home before they go out.

She added: 'It's so readily available and so cheap at the same time. When we were growing up you could only buy a drink from an off licence or a pub not anywhere else. But kids in particular see it so much they forget alcohol is a drug.'

Sarah Cordey, a spokesman for the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents shops in the UK, said: 'Supermarkets are the most responsible sellers of alcohol. They enforce Challenge 25 to prevent underage sales, display 'Know Your Limits' unit labelling and provide funding for the Drink Aware campaign.

'There's no evidence to link the way alcohol is sold currently to problem drinking. The vast majority of supermarket customers buy alcohol as part of their weekly food shop and enjoy it responsibly at home.

'Solving problems caused by alcohol depends on a change in culture. It's too simplistic to suggest that price is the over-riding issue.'

Any moves to support pubs in Norwich fits in with the Evening News's Love Your Local campaign which is fighting to protect community watering holes for future generations.

To find out more about Love Your Local log onto and click onto news and then campaigns. Have you got a story for the campaign? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email

What do you think of Mr Armstrong's comments? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email