Health

Fresh call for alcohol glass ban

Alcohol should be served far more often in plastic glasses and bottles to reduce the injury toll from violent attacks, says a researcher.

Dr Alasdair Forsyth, from the Glasgow Centre for the Study of Violence, told a conference that the use of glass as a weapon could be eliminated.

He wants retailers to consider moving to plastic alongside bars and clubs.

A fellow expert said targeting city centres and late-night clubs and pubs should be the priority.

Some estimates put the cost of glass-related violence to the NHS, police and courts at more than £100m a year.

The precise number of violent attacks involving glass each year is unknown, although the crime surveys suggest it may run into six figures.

Over the years, the pub industry has introduced toughened glass, but now researchers say further measures are needed.

Dr Forsyth, due to address the World Safety Conference in London, said: "Milk is commonly sold in cartons, soft drinks in plastic and hot drinks in ceramics.

"The one category of drink still commonly sold or served in glass vessels is alcohol, paradoxically the only beverage type associated with an increased risk of accidents and serious violence.

"It is much easier to eliminate glass used as a weapon than knives."

He said that his research showed younger people didn't mind using plastic bottles - but that the over-40s were resistant to the idea.

"They claim it keeps the drink cooler, which is absolute nonsense. It's just a matter of making plastic containers socially acceptable."

He said that certain designs of bottle - particularly screw-top bottles, caused particular problems.

As well as making it easier to drink alcohol in the street, the screw-top prevented the neck of the bottle from disintegrating when broken, forming a far more dangerous weapon in the hands of an attacker.

There were trials of polycarbonate glasses in three Lancashire towns in 2009.

While the number of violent incidents did not decrease, the number of injuries fell significantly.

Polycarbonate was introduced across Hull City Centre two years ago, and one eye surgeon estimated that the local NHS had saved more than £7m over that period as the number of eye injuries fell.

'Proportionate response'

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, from the Cardiff University Violence and Society Research Group, said that he favoured focusing on the worst "hotspots" for alcohol-related violence over a full ban on glass containers.

He said: "This is not so much a problem of restaurants or pubs in leafy suburbs, but mainly in the licensed premises or on the streets of busy city centres.

"I think that some selectivity and targeting is important - perhaps having no glass in 'alcohol disorder zones' in city centres."

The body which represents the alcoholic drinks industry said that a complete ban on glass would be unnecessary.

Jeremy Beadles, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: "While we recognise glassing injuries are a serious issue, what is needed is a proportionate response.

"A blanket ban on glass packaging for alcohol would affect shops, restaurants, pubs and consumers without helping to tackle the situations where problems occur.

"The industry has already taken steps to use shatter-resistant glass or plastic in higher risk situations, and we are constantly working with police and the Home Office to improve safety."

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