Fundraising initiatives highlight key message

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Unsurprisingly, after the excesses of the festive season, thoughts turn to detox and diet at the start of the new year.

I’m delighted that Cancer Research UK will repeat its hugely successful January alcohol abstinence campaign, Dryathlon, in 2014.

The campaign raised £4m last year, and Macmillan ran a similar event in October, Go Sober October, which raised £1.7m.

These fundraising initiatives help to highlight a key health message. The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of 3-4 units of alcohol for men (equivalent to a pint-and-a-half of four per cent beer) and 2-3 units of alcohol for women (equivalent to a 175ml glass of wine).

Regularly drinking more than this has health risks. Sadly, in our city, alcohol abuse is very prevalent and the most common cause of admissions to the QA Hospital’s intensive care unit.

So good luck to all those taking part in the Dryathlon.

But while I offer this encouragement I would also make what might seem a rather incompatible appeal: that in 2014 we all do what we can to support our local pubs. We have some real treasures in Portsmouth: beautiful tiled heritage buildings and some fantastic community pubs.

They are so much more than a drinking hole. They are a place to meet and bring communities together. And they are under threat.

We must halt the tide of pub closures if we are to retain what are valuable social assets in our city.

In a pub the landlord can make a judgment about someone’s alcohol intake, what they are spending, how someone is behaving. Not all pubs do pay so much attention to their clientele, but it is just the sort of establishment that does offer that type of attention, and the social events that bring the diversity of our streets together, that is under the greatest pressure.

The loss of these social hubs is likely to lead to an increase in lone drinking and consequently an increase in alcohol abuse.