Friday, 31 July 2015

Binge Drinking Britain

The subject of 'binge drinking' has been in the news quite a lot in recent years. One high profile method governments have employed to address the problem is to encourage the police to target under age drinkers. Unfortunately, behind all the rhetoric, the approach of the authorities to the problem of young people and alcohol is unrealistic and misconceived.

The first misconception is that targeting under age drinking is the same as addressing binge drinking. The two are quite separate, since the overwhelming majority of those indulging in anti-social behaviour as a result of excessive drinking are likely to be in the 18-30 age group, and quite a few will be still older. The term 'binge drinking' is also fairly unhelpful, since heavy drinking does not necessarily lead to anti-social behaviour. There have always been heavy drinkers, but the culture of group anti social rowdiness, fuelled by alcohol is a relatively recent trend.

The legal age for the sale of alcohol has been eighteen years for a considerable time. Until more recently it was enforced relatively lightly but, in an attempt to address anti social behaviour amongst some young people, enforcement is now taken much more seriously by government, and thus also by the police. It is not clear how this hard-line approach will be effective. Most youngsters in the 15-17 age group are provided with drinks either courtesy of their parents, or bought for them by older friends. Young people are not likely to take kindly to being stopped by police searching for unopened cans of lager.

Intervention of this kind may be necessary in crackdowns on weapons in areas of high knife crime, but police officers searching young people for alcohol are likely to create resentment, and not just for those under eighteen. Similarly, the police will be asking for trouble if they enter pubs to check the IDs of young drinkers. To conclude, intrusive measures to enforce the law on under age drinking are likely to be seen as heavy handed and will have no impact on under age drinking. Supermarkets requesting identification for those under 25 wishing to purchase alcoholic drinks are gratuitously treating their younger customers with contempt.

The problem of antisocial behaviour by young people is caused more by lack of discipline in either the home or in school, and by the huge increase in single parenting. The government shows no signs of taking effective action to address these underlying causes of youth misbehaviour.

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