16 August 2007

Time to raise drinking age to 21.

At the age of 38, I can just about remember what it was like to be a teenager (honest!). I, like most of my mates used to like occasionally 'drinking cider/lager/spirits' *(delete as appropriate) in the park...

One of us, always looked more than their 15/16/17 years and managed to purchase some booze for us. This of course is just part of the problem - those however who are 11 to 14 who report 'getting drunk' are not getting their booze in this way. Someone, either an older 'friend' or relative or a dodgy off-license is selling it to them.

I don't think the drinking age of 18 for pubs should be affected, I just think think the age for buying at off-licences should be raised to 21.

There are a number of advantages to this.

1. Pubs trade will be boosted (and now they are smoke free they are probably more healthy than some homes).

2. Drinking in pubs will significantly increase the price of getting drunk for 18 to 21 year olds (there is definitely also an argument for increasing price across the board - I would propose a new tax on off-licence sales only so not to hit the pub trade).

3. 18 to 21 year olds will be more likely to behave (or encouraged to behave) in a licenced establishment and if they don't, can be more easily barred from drinking - landlords can have more control and hopefully refuse to serve those who are the worse for wear.

4. It will be much harder for dodgy off-licences to use the excuse that 16 year olds 'looked old enough'. Because of this, fines could be significantly increased on establishments and individuals that sell to under 18s.

5. 18 year olds could still purchase alcohol - so it won't seem as draconian as a across the board rising of the age or as hypocritical from us oldies stopping youngsters doing what we were doing at their age.

By the way, I notice the Daily Mail managed to sneak in a distorted stats article to support their scare mongering about 24 hour opening - Like all Daily Mail articles it is always worth reading the last paragraph;
"Data collected from 30 police forces from October 2004 to September 2006, including Devon and Cornwall, show no indication of an overall rise in the level of violent offences as a result of the Licensing Act 2003.

"The night-time economy is extremely complex; there is a range of factors and variables that can impact upon levels of crime and disorder."



Which hardly squares with their 'Pub violence has soared by half since 24-hour licensing' headline.

17 comments:

  1. The problem is that this just discrimnates against law abiding, sensible younger people. What about the 20 year old couple that want a quiet night in with a bottle of wine a takeaway and a DVD?

    ReplyDelete
  2. What rob said. The problem isn't the consumption of alcohol, it's the behaviour of a minority of inebriated youth.

    Make it clear that alcohol consumption will be treated as an aggravating factor in any criminal offence, and start actually penalising the actual crimes (assault, criminal damage etc.)

    Take violent or offensive drunkards off the streets on a Friday or Saturday night, throw them in the cells, and don't let them out till Tuesday morning for a first offence.

    People (even young people) sitting around having a quiet drink, even if that quiet drink happens to be a 6-pack of special brew in the local park, aren't doing anyone any harm. If they leave the cans lying around, arrest them for littering.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rob, Sam, I agree with you that the young law abiding who want to drink will miss out. But the real point of raising the age to 21 is to target those under 18 - make it very difficult for them to get alcohol. This is not a satisfactory way of doing it but the alternatives are much more ineffective. Those 18-21 (or younger) could still get alcohol from older relatives, friends etc.(but crucially the older adults who supply them should be responsible for their behaviour).

    Of course offenders should be appropriately punished (and they usually are). We should not get carried away with a media that focuses on the few lenient sentences.

    I agree that those getting tanked up on special brew in the park are not necessarily doing any harm to anyone else BUT I imagine we all know how alcohol makes us do stupid things (especially when we are young and inexperienced at drinking). We have to have some controls.

    The real problem of course is changing our drinking culture - for a start, I would ban alcohol advertising, like they have in France.

    Ironically, in the long term, we need to get our youngsters drinking sensibly at a YOUNGER age. We all know how mediterranean 10 year olds enjoy a glass of wine with their meal. There is nothing wrong with this. Most youngsters will try a small amount of alcohol at this age and decide they don't really like the taste - so when they are offered it later in their teens it is not such a novelty and there is unlikely to be peer 'macho' pressure to drink.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with you that the young law abiding who want to drink will miss out

    But, as with all your other authoritarian clamp down proposals, Neil, you don't care.

    I find it despicable that you can advocate so many restrictions on ordinary law abiding people (the majority - as you seem to have forgotten) in so many areas simply because a few people can't behave and no-one seems interested in enforcing the perfectly adequate laws we already have.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Urko: People who are 18 could still drink alcohol if they go to pubs. Wherever we draw the line there is going to be law abiding people who will be punished - maybe there are lots of 17 year olds who should be allowed to buy booze.

    But your happy status quo also has its problems.

    Of course the law should be enforced (we already have the largest prison population in Europe so don't tell me we are being too lenient), but at the same time we need a long term aim to change our drinking culture.

    Raising the drinking age would be part of this strategy along with increasing taxes on booze and banning advertising.

    Nobody (least of all me) wants to put unnecessary restrictions on people. To have real freedom you sometimes have to restrict some of the more anti-social activities. There is always a balance to be found - it is not a simplistic 'individual good, government bad' strategy that you alway seem to follow.

    ReplyDelete

  6. I agree that those getting tanked up on special brew in the park are not necessarily doing any harm to anyone else BUT I imagine we all know how alcohol makes us do stupid things (especially when we are young and inexperienced at drinking). We have to have some controls.


    The control is that you have to learn your limits. The first time you get tanked up on special brew and do something stupid, you should get a good metaphorical kicking, and a stern warning that a repeat of such behaviour won't be tolerated.

    You are trying to use alcohol as an excuse. That isn't acceptable. Beer doesn't "make you" do stupid things, it just removes your inhibitions and clouds your judgement. It's still you that makes yourself do something stupid. If you can't handle it, you need to chose to drink less, or you need to face the consequences.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nobody (least of all me) wants to put unnecessary restrictions on people.
    That's just not true. You want to restrict and control normal law abiding people from doing perfectly reasonable things because you have an irrational belief that doing so will reduce criminal and anti social behaviour.

    To have real freedom you sometimes have to restrict some of the more anti-social activities.

    What is anti-social about two 20 year-olds enjoying a glass of wine with their meal at home? Under your proposal it would have been illegal for them to buy it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Urko: Let me turn your question around; what is anti-social about two 17 year olds enjoying a glass of wine with their meal at home? The answer is, like your 20 year old example, nothing. Wherever we draw the line is arbitrary to some degree - but if moving the law to 21 significantly reduces anti-social behavior amongst 18-21 year olds then it might be worth it, I think the time has come - at least until we can change our drinking culture.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sam: To combat anti-social behaviour we look to encourage individual restraint and responsibility. That is correct but it is not always enough, as you acknowledge we also need appropriate punishment and enforcement to discourage this behaviour. But even that is sometimes not enough, I think sometimes society has to take a strong lead to rehabilitate behaviour and intervene early to prevent behaviour developing. We also need to eliminate activities that effectively encourage such behaviour (cheap booze, promotions, loss leaders, advertising, drinking culture etc.)

    ReplyDelete
  10. but if moving the law to 21 significantly reduces anti-social behavior[sic] amongst 18-21 year olds then it might be worth...

    Might be worth outlawing perfectly reasonable behaviour for the law-abiding majority? No - on two fronts you are wrong. 1) It isn't a price we need to pay (we have plenty of laws to deal with anti-social behaviour already).
    2) The idea is based on an irrational belief that making laws automatically stops bad people doing bad things - this flies in the face of the evidence, but fits in with your general blind faith in more rules and more technology.

    ReplyDelete
  11. But even that is sometimes not enough, I think sometimes society has to take a strong lead to rehabilitate behaviour and intervene early to prevent behaviour developing.

    ...and the way you need to do that is by treating the behaviour as serious. People (even young people) drinking and even getting drunk are not the problem. The problem occurs when people get drunk and then behave in a particular manner.

    We have a culture that treats that manner of behaviour as funny, and sometimes admirable. It considers vomiting on street corners and swearing drunkenly at strangers as signs of a good night out. A street brawl is the ideal way to finish off an evening.

    Those things are crimes. Right now, the police largely ignore them. Maybe we should try cracking down on the behaviour that actually does cause problems, rather than making life more awkward for decent law-abiding people because we're too stupid to enforce the laws that we've already got.

    ReplyDelete
  12. In fact low level anti-social crime is treated more seriously than ever and we have more police officers than ever to catch perpetrators who are receiving harsher or longer sentences - which probably explains why we have the largest prison population in Europe and that the numbers in prison have nearly doubled under Labour. The problem is, prison is not the answer.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Neil, your response is baffling. According to you, low level antisocial behaviour has been targeted and that has filled up the prisons*, but it's a failed strategy. Your solution appears to be to introduce more draconian laws. How exactly do you think that will help?

    *I don't think most people who come to the attention of the law for "low-level antisocial behaviour" end up in jail - even the repeat offenders - they get a warning or a fine.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think the number of ASBOS/ fines has led to more people in jail for non-compliance/ non-payment.

    I was responding to Sam who thinks that these crimes are not being taken seriously - I pointed out they are being taken seriously but more prison is not the answer - that does not however mean that people cannot be punished. I think restorative punishment is the answer not prison.

    I don't think raising the drinking age by four years for off-licence purchases is draconian!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I don't think raising the drinking age by four years for off-licence purchases is draconian!

    Of course you don't; you don't think government compulsory management of everyone's identity is draconian. I'm here to serve as a constant reminder that there are people who disagree with your fashionable obsession for making laws and spending money on technology instead of doing anything useful.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Urko: "your fashionable obsession for making laws and spending money on technology instead of doing anything useful"

    I actually think it is your brand of 'absolute mistrust of government' and faith in 'the free hand of the market' right-wing libertarian ideology that is currently fashionable.

    Sometimes, in fact a lot of the time, new technology and laws are the answer!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I cant believe how stupid this is
    raising the drinking age for purchasig alcohol won't stop underage drinking, if parents relatives etc. are buying them alcohol then they will keep doing it.

    When we turn 18 we are legally old enough to go to war and get ourselves killed over a dispute between countries. We can vote for who we want to lead this country. But we are not old enough to have a few drinks. How dare you try and take that right away, if some people take drinking a little too far who are you to stop them. What happened to the right to our own body.

    This idea is ludacris and i hope you never get elected, you quite obviously have no idea what it is like to be a teenager no matter how much you try to 'relate'

    ReplyDelete