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Drinking Laws 'Fuel Disease' In UK: Expert

The doctor treating ailing football legend George Best has condemned the relaxation of licensing laws in England and Wales, saying it reflected a 'society falling apart'.// The new legislation took effect at 00:01 GMT on Thursday, consigning the traditional 23:00 closing time to history and ushering in what the government hopes will be a more relaxed and civilized socializing.

But specialist liver consultant Professor Roger Williams joined opponents who expressed fears not just about the potential effects of longer opening hours on crime and disorder, but also its impact on the nation's health.

He told Sky News television increasing numbers of people in their 30s were being admitted to hospital with advanced liver disease, particularly women. 'I just cannot accept that any measure that results in an increase in alcohol consumption in this country as a whole can be justified,' he told the channel.

'I don't think there is any evidence that lengthening the periods of drinking in this country will lead to less alcohol consumption. It will lead to more.'

Williams, who oversaw Best's 2002 liver transplant - the culmination of years of alcohol abuse by the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer - said increased prices were the only way of reducing consumption.

He also called for fewer drinks promotions in pubs, bars and clubs and more restrictions to be placed on access to alcohol in places like supermarkets, which are also covered by the extended opening hours.

'I would also like to see this country take a real lead in morality and drinking habits and what the country is about socially,' Williams said. 'Alcohol, drinking, this awful binge culture, violence, all this is a reflection of a society that's falling apart and now these drinking laws are making it even worse.'

Best was in a critical condition in a London hospital on Thursday and was not expected to live more t han 24 hours, Williams told reporters later.

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