Licensed premises are being urged to make it as easy as possible for 18-24 year olds on a night out to get access to free drinking water.
The Water Angel scheme was launched today (Tuesday 28 October 2014) by West Sussex County Council’s Public Health team ahead of Alcohol Awareness Week which runs 17-23 November 2014.
The scheme is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.
A pilot project at one of the county’s biggest nightclubs saw models dressed up in angel wings handing out shots of water from water packs to clubbers. Smaller venues are being asked to introduce water coolers to make sure people can top up with water.
West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, Christine Field, said: “This is about making it easier for young adults to drink more water, and in doing so, helping them to pace their drinking and avoid a hangover.
“Local young adults have told us that they often forget to drink water on nights out, and that having to queue at a bar and ask for a glass of water is a barrier – so why not take the water to them?
“It is a simple idea but could have real benefits both for the health and safety of young adults and venues – and their local communities - where it could lead to a reduction in anti-social behaviour.”
Recent local health research found that 18-24 year olds often forget to drink water on nights out and that it was sometimes seen as a sign of weakness by their peers. They also said that having to queue at the bar for water was another barrier as they did not want to miss out on their fun.
Among those backing the scheme is 22-year-old Henry Maybury, a University of Chichester graduate, whose older brother Tom died in his 20s from alcohol addiction.
Henry’s song Lost Days, in memory of his brother, has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and he has set up the Lost Days campaign to raise money for addiction and recovery charities.
Henry said: “I think Water Angels is a fantastic idea as it conveniently promotes drinking water without being too blatant, which is critical if we want to change the mind-set that it’s acceptable to pace yourself while on a night out. I really hope the scheme catches on around the UK and I’m proud to be part of it!”
Sussex Police has backed the scheme. Licensing and Public Safety Manager at Sussex Police, Jean Irving, said: “I think Water Angels is a great idea. Anything that dilutes the effects of alcohol is a very positive step forward. We welcome any initiative that can help to prevent drunken anti-social behaviour.”
Adam Foxley, General Manager at Moka nightclub in Crawley, which trialled the scheme, said they had very positive feedback.
He said: “The events went really well. The concept was to offer people the chance to have a great night whilst drinking safely by remembering to drink water in between their alcoholic beverages.
“We had models dressed with angel wings and they helped get the safer drinking message across. The concept went down really well with people.
“We would definitely encourage other venues to incorporate this concept into the nights as it only had a positive effect.”
According to Public Health England, over nine million people (22% of the population) drink at levels that increase the risk of harm to their health.
The County Council’s Public Health plan, Healthy and Well in West Sussex 2012-2017, highlights the need to reduce hospital admissions for alcohol-related harm.
For more information contact Holly Yandall, Public Health Lead for Substance Misuse on 033 022 28683 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.