AMATEUR dramatic societies have become more rare. Local choir membership seems to start at 50 years of age. Rambling, cycling and youth clubs are scarce on the ground.

What are young people to do for social activities these days?

For many, the only answer is a “night on the town”, which often leads to binge-drinking.

Since New Labour produced its Alcohol Strategy Report in 2004, and subsequent liberalisation of licensing laws, on certain nights the average UK high street has never been more drink-sodden.

While mortality from every other major cause of death has been declining, that from alcohol-related illness shows an alarming increase – costing the NHS £2.7bn annually. This does not include the costs of crime and disorder and social services’ intervention, nor the damage done to family relationships and even to unborn babies.

Alarmed at last, the Government is now tinkering with the licensing laws to attempt to remedy this “epidemic”, which it fuelled.

Alas, it will take action across many fronts and vested interests (brewers, supermarkets, the advertising industry and parents) confronting even to begin to address this problem.

It would be interesting to hear the views of some of the region’s prospective parliamentary candidates on this issue.

Donald Aitchison, Consett, Co Durham.