New Home Office figures have revealed that the number of shops with a licence to sell alcohol at any time of the night or day jumped another 5% to 2,100 this year. This is 400 more than three years ago, and is the highest number of shops with these freedoms since records began. The number of pubs and bars with 24 hour licences is soaring too.
So what is this costing us?
BoomThe figures revealed that corner shops were driving the trend - some 1,027 of the shops with 24-hour alcohol licences are convenience stores. This compares to 963 large supermarkets. The number of pubs and bars with round-the-clock licences, meanwhile, went up more than a fifth to 1,100.
Taken together there are now 8,900 places you can stop off for some booze if you happen to get thirsty at 4am on a Saturday.
But what is this costing us?It costs drinkers a small fortune. Research from PruHealth found that the average Londoner spends £22 a week on alcohol, while those in the south spend £18, and in the Midlands, Scotland and Wales they spend £17. However, 7% of men said they regularly drink £40 worth of alcohol a week.
It costs society a great deal too. The Royal College of Physicians has calculated that the NHS spends a shocking £3 billion a year dealing with illness and injury caused by drink. They say that up to 12% of everything the NHS spends can be attributed to drink.
Alcohol Concern estimates the cost of alcohol-related crime at £11 billion a year. This includes the cost of trying to prevent trouble, dealing with those who commit crimes when under the influence, and picking up the pieces.
And lost productivity and absenteeism because of alcohol was shown to cost the economy 14 million working days and up to £6.4 billion each year when it was last researched by the government.
However, in among all of this, it's worth bearing in mind that by far the majority of people drink sensibly. For them, the ability to buy alcohol when they are taking advantage of 24-hour shopping is very useful. They might also need to pop into the corner shop for a bottle of wine when they have unexpected guests. Or they may be treated to a bucks fizz at breakfast for a special occasion. The spread of 24-hour licences has brought more convenience into their jam-packed lives.
But what do you think? is this worth the cost?