Retailers in the Ramsey area are to pull super-strength beers and ciders from their shelves in a bid to cut violent crime, anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related health problems.
They hope other retailers across Huntingdonshire will follow suit.
Many of the stores in the town and the villages of Warboys, Bury and Ramsey St Mary’s have agreed to a voluntary ban on selling beers, lagers and ciders over 6% strength. The strategy, part of the Ramsey ‘Reducing the Strength’ Community Campaign launched yesterday (Tuesday), has already been successfully used in large towns such as Ipswich, Nottingham and Wakefield.
The idea is backed by police, licensing officers and Huntingdonshire District Council’s safety team and is being championed by the Gainsborough Foundation, an alcohol recovery service based in Ramsey.
Dr Arun Aggarwal, lead GP at the foundation, said his wife and fellow GP Rita came up with the idea after she spotted a newspaper article about the success of the Ipswich scheme, where street violence and anti-social behaviour such as urinating in public had dropped by about 30 per cent in a year.
“She was quite impressed and thought we should give it a go in Ramsey,” he told The Hunts Post. “We have been GPs here for 20 years and it’s a small, discreet area and it will have an impact on some of the problem drinkers.
“About half the shops agreed to take part instantly, while the other half agreed without much persuasion over the course of a few days, so we have 10 stores in a five-mile radius of Ramsey.”
The only store not listed, Tesco, already did not stock the majority of the brands being targeted, said Dr Aggarwal.
He continued: “There are some drinks that are never social. Super strength ciders and beers are only drunk to get completely hammered.”
Dr Aggarwal said the campaign targeted cheap, strong alcohol because experience elsewhere had shown drinkers had turned to lower strength drinks.
“If the Government is not going to take action, this small gesture may make some impact,” he added.
HDC’s executive councillor for healthy and active communities Councillor Robin Howe said: “We are grateful to the retailers in Ramsey, Bury and Warboys who are supporting this initiative, and we hope that other areas across the district will follow quickly to adopt the same model so that soon these products will not be available in Huntingdonshire off-licences.”
A police spokesman said: “While we do not have a street drinking problem in Huntingdonshire, we are pleased to support this campaign which aims to highlight the dangers of drinking high-strength alcohol.”
Stores with a ban include: Ramsey Co-op; Sophies, High Street, Ramsey; Bury stores; Premier Stores on Field Road; Newsplus Spar on Great Whyte; Ramsey St Mary’s Convenience Store; Amar Stores in Warboys; and Spar in Warboys.
Should the ban be extended across the district or does it go too far? Email your views to email@example.com.